During this serious time when public schools are under siege and threatened by a tech, anti-teacher, anti-brick-and-mortar schools, and an anything goes takeover, it’s important to define public schools.
It goes without saying that public schools should be creative places for learning. Some children, especially those who are at-risk, require different learning environments.
The alternative schools I’ve known have been great schools, run by creative teachers. They received oversight by the local school district. This includes magnet schools.
But alternative education has changed. Now alternative schools are sometimes considered charter schools. This makes the concept of alternative schooling murky.
With DeVos and her school choice agenda looming, I don’t think we can afford murky when it comes to saving public schools.
For years I have received notifications from AERO which stands for Alternative Education Resource Organization. They recently had their conference. They often have well-known speakers who are impressive, and this year was no different.
However, I also question many of the presentations.
AERO’s current agenda sounds supportive of school choice, personalized learning, and disruption with technology. They advocate an “education revolution” which seems eerily like “transformation.”
It sounds like the Republican agenda for privatization, even though AERO promotes itself as supporting democratic schools.
Susan Sarandon’s Subtle Anti-Public School Message
Here is the first example.
This is a video with liberal activist Susan Sarandon, a spokesperson for AERO, a fervent Bernie Sanders supporter. She implies public schools are boring and have bullies. And she suggests that parents have options including private schools.
Remember that private schools can also have bullies and be boring!
I can imagine Sarandon getting together with Parent Trigger groups and sitting down to have tea with Betsy DeVos!
Sarandon attended mostly Catholic schools, but graduated from Edison High School in New Jersey, a public high school. Her high school served a diverse student body.
Workshops and Speakers Sounded Pro-Charter School and Pro-Tech
Scan the presentations of AERO’s recent conference . There was much that sounded supportive of public schools and creative thinking. It’s the few who seem to have a privatization agenda that raise concerns.
The emphasis on personalized learning was especially troubling. Some of the speakers seem anti-public school and are well-connected to today’s tech environment.
Here are some examples:
Museum and Non-Profit-Based Learning.
There was a presenter who specializes in Museum and Non-Profit based learning.
There’s concern that museums and other unconventional locations, and non-profit programs will eventually replace locally governed public schools. Brick-and-mortar schools appear threatened by “disruption” which means technology. Children will learn anyplace anytime with their digital devices. Public schools as we know them will be a thing of the past.
Hackerspaces (makerspaces) are where students use digital devices to make things. This looks nice, but there’s talk about becoming catalysts for self-determining and self-directed learning through a variety of programs designed to meet different needs. Hard and soft skills, along with low tech and high tech projects are emphasized.
The worry is that this is all about technology and children working without teachers.
Creating Alternative Colleges.
Do you want to start your own college? One presenter claims to draw on her experience with TEDxMtHood and the World Domination Summit and founding non-profit organizations such as SuperThank.
Participants discussed creating a different kind of college based on three core values: human, on purpose, and adventure. In both small groups and large groups we will generate ideas for what such a college would look like. If participants are interested, we can also discuss a step-by-step process for starting an alternative college in their home city.
America is home to the best public university system in the world! Surely we haven’t gotten to the point where anyone should be able to start a college!
Dual Enrollment and Distance Learning Opportunities
This presentation mentioned U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan favorably because Duncan described dual enrollments as “good dropout-prevention programs.”
They highlight the James Irvine Foundation who support Pay for Success.
They say: More and more a world of choices is available to students regardless of background. How do we support underrepresented communities in discerning within and benefiting from the growing field of choices? Like Sarandon, this sounds like an ad for vouchers.
Special Education for Private Schools?
Increasingly special education services are being stripped from public schools. Betsy DeVos may get rid of them altogether.
One AERO workshop was designed to explore how students with disabilities may experience academic, social and emotional success within various private school settings in a manner which meets their unique strengths and needs. Some students are able to experience success within their local public school environments. However, other students find it increasingly difficult to meet their needs in public school settings but are able to thrive in alternative educational settings. This workshop will present parents with a process which may enable them to match their child’s unique needs with an alternative school setting.
There’s much more. If interested, scan the the AERO link.