A reader named Alice poses a challenge to readers of this blog: What are we fighting for? How would you propose to change public schools so they provided a better education for all? The schools as they are today have been shaped by 14 years of misguided federal policy. The heavy reliance on testing has distorted their priorities and turned them into places that do not encourage creativity or passion. We need to repel the corporate assault, we must reject the “no excuses” boot camps that instill obedience and conformity.

Suppose we win? Suppose the entrepreneurs, billionaires, ideologues, and profiteers get bored and give up? What would you do next? How big is your dream?

This is Alice’s challenge:

“Can we have a different discussion regarding charter schools? One that doesn’t force us into the uncomfortable position of blindly defending public schools because we’re under such life and death attack. The “reform” movement agenda, of which privately funded charters are only one piece, completely drowns out all other conversation about public schools. We (those questioning the privately funded charter movement) have been forced to defend “public schools” as a single entity, without being able to discuss the many problems that public schools have and have had for decades. There seems to be a fear of that discussion as though it might prove that charters are necessary, in any form. (and I apologize if this has come up on this blog before. If it has, it can’t hurt to have the conversation again for those who missed it or are new…)

“Can the conversation change from Charters – yes or no – to “what can we do to improve education for everyone in a free and appropriate system?” What can we do to move towards a positive education experience for all kids? Is it possible for a public school system to do such a thing when funded by tax payers only? Is the only way to offer viable options in education to allow private money in? Would the private benefactors be as interested in offering the alternatives they claim out-perform public schools if there was no money to be made?

“Where are the models of true learning in charters (as opposed to test score raising, behavior-modifying, Spec student-limiting charters we hear so much about) that public schools can be pressured to emulate? Are there more than a handful of those? Why aren’t they (if they exist) the models all other schools are striving to compete with? Can you imagine what it would look like if all public schools were in competition with each other to see which ones could be more authentic, more inclusive, more student-centered, more teacher empowering than the other? How amazing would it be if charters were competing for public money in order to provide the most developmentally appropriate, student-centered, authentic learning environments where teachers were empowered to teach and guide students to reach for the stars?!

“Now those would be charters I would be willing to fight for!””