While cleaning out old files recently I happened across a copy of a news article from June 27, 2006. It told about then-Governor Bob Riley speaking to a conference of educators in Mobile. One of his statements jumped off the page at me.
He was speaking about high poverty schools and the fact that society often blamed a student’s failure on his culture or background. “Those excuses are no longer relative,” said Riley.
Unfortunately, the governor was confusing excuses and reality. Or basically he was parroting the unsound mantra that “schools should be run like businesses.” He was trying to convince a room full of educators that all the kids in their classrooms are identical. They all come from identical homes with identical parents who have treated them all the same way since birth. An education version of the Stepford Wives if you will.
By this same logic, he could have told the 5 foot 6 inch manager of a college basketball team that there was no reason he should not be playing center on the team, rather than washing towels and taping ankles.
Of course students of poverty can perform well in school. But those who do are the exception, not the rule. And it is hardly a surprise that collectively, all the schools on the accountability act “failing list” are 91 percent poverty.
As to the very worn “run schools like a business” I refer you to this excellent post by teacher and author Larry Ferlazzo where he catalogs a large number of arguments detailing the fallacy of statements like the governor made.
Interesting enough, the keynote speaker for the same convention where Governor Riley spoke was Freeman Hrabowski, a Birmingham native, who is President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He told the group that today’s students aren’t like those from decades ago because so many come from broken homes or have other struggles, creating extra challenges for teachers.
In other words, he acknowledged what the governor did not.