Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Through Katharine Beals' blog, Out in Left Field, I am once again thinking about KIPP schools, and trying to clarify my (extremely negative) reaction to them.

In Schools Matter: A Former KIPP Teacher Shares Her Story, I found the following poster, which is apparently common in KIPP schools:

(It's a bit hard to read; here's what it says.  In the first panel, a coach berates a student: "You ! ¿ a ! ".  In the second panel, the student thinks [sic]: "I won't be bad next time I will be better The coach can be mad so what I'll do better next time".   In the third panel, three smiley-type faces are shown with the captions "I feel okay", "I feel very angry!", and "I feel a little sad".  The "I feel okay" smiley has an arrow drawn to it.)

Here, kids are taught that it's OK if they get screamed at by a coach, or, by extension, a teacher, and that they shouldn't get sad or angry about it; they should tell themselves they feel OK and try to do better next time.  The message of the poster is that kids should accept abuse from those in authority.  (Elsewhere in our society, abusive coaches get fired.)

From an interview with a KIPP student in Schools matter: Why Students Call KIPP the Kids in Prison Program:
I had to sit like this. [demonstrates]
It’s called S.L.A.N.T.: Sit straight. Listen. Ask a question. Nod your head. Track. Track is, if the teacher is going that way you have to… [demonstrates] follow… If you didn't do that, they'll yell at you: "You're supposed to be looking at me!" [points to demerit sheet] "No SLANTing." They'll put that on there. 
If I got into an argument with a teacher, I would have to stand outside the classroom on the black line, holding my notebook out. [Stands up and demonstrates, holding arms out] I would have to stand there until they decided to come out. For 20 minutes, 30 minutes, sometimes they’ll forget you’re out there and you’ll be there the whole period –an hour and forty minutes standing. if you have necklaces you have to tuck them away so they can’t see them – or else they’ll have you write four pages of a sentence about KIPP – “I must follow the rules of the KIPP Academy” or “I must not talk” for four pages.
Here's the bottom line for me:  I don't like authoritarian schools.   I don't like schools that tell kids how to sit, what to wear, where they're allowed to look during class,  and how to walk in the hallway. I don't like schools that take over their students' lives through a long school day followed by enormous quantities of homework.

I wouldn't send my own kids to an authoritarian school, and I don't want to support authoritarian schools with my tax dollars.  I don't accept the values they teach, namely total compliance and unquestioning obedience.  I don't really care whether the kids at these schools do better on standardized tests, because the price is too high.  It's not worth higher test scores if children are being trained to accept abuse.

For that matter, I don't like schools that abuse their teachers.  KIPP schools routinely make their teachers work 90 hours a week.  Only young adults with no families of their own can handle the workload.  I've learned through experience that teachers who don't have their own kids are often much less sympathetic and understanding of the child's point of view, but these are the only teachers employed by KIPP.  

We need a humane society.  We can only achieve a humane society by treating all people humanely and with respect. This includes young people, female people, dark-skinned people, people whose first language is not English, employees, and everyone at the bottom of the totem pole.


  1. Completely agree. I despise KIPP schools and I often reach for the nearest bucket when Jay Mathews of the Washington Post extols them. But then again, I do that with just about everything Mathews writes.

  2. We need a humane society. We can only achieve a humane society by treating all people humanely and with respect.

    I agree. But that's not the trend, nor will it be for some time to come... Prison, and not just kids is the tend...

    ( Look!In the sky! Is it a bird? a plane?... nah it's a drone!)

    However the pendulum will swing back at some point

  3. "I feel okay" ??

    Way to set the bar high.

    How depressing.