Joanne Yatvin, former teacher, principal and superintendent and literacy expert in Oregon, sent me the following email after reading the story in the New York Times about Success Academy and its regimented environment, focused on test scores:

Diane,

I read the New York Times article on the Success Academies around the same time that you did and came away shivering for the children who are being “educated” there. Here is my take on what those charters actually teach.

In my career as a teacher and principal I came to know a great deal about what children learn at school. It’s not only academics and proper school behavior, but also how to operate in personal relationships and the outside world. Reading the New York Times article about the Success Academy Charter Schools earlier this week, I saw some pretty tough demands being made of all kids and humiliating consequences for those who didn’t meet them. I can’t help wondering if Success Academy students aren’t also learning some or all of the following life lessons:
The only thing that matters is being a winner

Competition works better than cooperation

Do what you’re told even if it makes no sense to you

Keep quiet when you see other people being abused

Those who are not successful at their work are just lazy

Punishment and humiliation are good training for children

Prepare yourself for stressful situations by wearing a diaper

If that’s what children learn at the Success Academies, I’m glad my children went to mediocre public schools and emerged as independent thinkers and dedicated supporters of their less fortunate neighbors.