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Praise For Pig-Headedness

Jun 14, 2018 by

Student-led civil disobedience is underfoot at Success Academy High School for the Liberal Arts, a Potemkin Village-like showcase in the private charter school empire of Eva Moskowitz.  “Civil disobedience” is an expression that is practically axiomatic with “social justice” causes that are generally conceded to be worthy.
 
In this case, the protest may not be as well-founded. Its focus is the compulsory summer workload that is being imposed on students during the traditional period of loafing known as summer vacation.  The students were assigned the reading of 5 books, including volumes oif a topical and contemporary appeal and borderline classics on a fairly high literacy standard. Additionally, the “scholars” were required to complete 15 SAT assignments each week and one math test every week of the hiatus. They must also take part with their peers in online discussion of the assignments.
 
A panicked member of the school community reportedly estimated this might entail 4 hours each day of onerous and oppressive drudgery.  The term “abusive” is bandied about. Theatrical language does not make the underlying idea more formidable.
 
The school points out, not unreasonably, that these students are ambitious for acceptance to superior universities and will seek financial aid.
 
Every assignment, whether classwork, homework, short-term or long-term, on regular days when school is in session, or on holidays, weekends or vacations,, should be purposeful. It should never be punitive or simply to keep a student busy.  And it should never be a public relations ploy. That means it must not be a stunt to conjure the illusion of “productivity” to gullible parents, supervisors, ambassadors from the community or so-called “distinguished visitors.”
 
It should reinforce recently taught material or help to seamlessly introduce the next step of knowledge based on it.
 
Do the protesting students truly feel aggrieved?  Are they justified or is their sobbing a bit “over the top”? Are they driven by a love of learning and who is doing the driving?  What is the link between academic immersion  and getting hold of a credential or a scholarship?
 
Do students punch a time clock in their brain? (Haven’t they always?)   Is intellectual labor a kind of mental incarceration or the keys to freedom?  Are the Success Academy pupils being treated like Victorian children dispatched to debtors prison to toil all day and night with little food or light to offset their parents’ liabilities?
 
We’re talking a few hours daily, which is less than most of these kids squander on social media.
 
Kids will be kids, which means most of them won’t voluntarily subscribe to doing chores.  Is there not a positive role for “tough love” in this situation?
 
The charter schools of Eva Moskowitz are critically flawed. That may even be a charitable assessment. But on this issue their pig-headedness is commendable.  Stubborn adherence to the principle of year-round learning deserves praise and emulation.
 
Ron Isaac
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