Which brings us to Geoffrey Canada, a brilliant and charismatic community organizer, but an odd choice to emerge as the voice of Superman. His groundbreaking Harlem Children’s Zone looks more like Finland than the new education reformers seem to recognize. In his book Whatever It Takes, Paul Tough describes the remarkable (and for the most part, privately funded) conveyor belt of social services Canada has created in a 97-square-block area in Harlem. The Children’s Zone provides prenatal training for parents, health care, and college prep programs—services many believe schools should not need to succeed.
By now, chinks have begun to show in the charter-school movement. Measuring the depth of a child’s education turns out to be complex and elusive. Recent reports show that even Geoffrey Canada’s schools slipped in standardized test rankings last year, along with those in other city charters.
Meanwhile, the media’s coverage of education issues remains less than inspiring. In a Wall Street Journal article, Rupert Murdoch actually suggested that we might turn to American Idol for inspiration. It has higher performance standards for pop stars, he said, than educators do for public-school children.
To be honest, nobody has zeroed in more sharply on the emptiness of such coverage than comedian Lewis Black on The Daily Show. “Ah, fall,” he intoned in a recent segment. “That magical time when we spend one or two weeks pretending we’re actually going to do something about the condition of our schools.” He then cut to a clip of David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, providing his own DIY recipe for school reform: “If you drive by a public school, even if your kids don’t go there, walk in, and ask what you can do to help.”
It’s enough to make me cry.
Click here for a complete Page Views archive.