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George Joseph is rapidly becoming one of our best education writers. In this article in The Nation, he shows how education “reform” is contributing to the “school to prison pipeline.” At best, he says, “no excuses” charter schools are preparing black students for low wage jobs.
“As assistant professor of education Beth Sondel and education researcher Joseph L. Boselovic detailed in a Jacobin Magazine investigation, the “No Excuses” disciplinary approach, promoted by KIPP, the largest charter school chain in America, has transformed schools into totalizing carceral environments. Sondel and Boselovic write:
“There were, for example, specific expectations about where students should put their hands, which direction they should turn their heads, how they should stand, and how they should sit.… Silence seemed to be especially important in the hallways. At the sound of each bell at the middle school, students were expected to line up at “level zero” with their faces forward and hands behind their backs and, when given permission, step into the hallway and onto strips of black duct tape. There they waited for the command of an administrator: ‘Duke, you can move to your next class! Tulane, you can walk when you show me that you are ready!’ Students then marched until they reached the STOP sign on the floor, where their teacher checked them for hallway position before giving them permission to continue around the corner. Throughout this process, students moved counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the hallway (even if they were going to a classroom one door to the left).
“This extreme control over the movements of black students teaches them that they neither have, nor deserve control over their own bodies—a disturbing message to send in a country still shaped by the legacy of slavery. Furthermore, it perpetuates the normalization of surveillance and domination that law enforcement authorities inflict on black communities every day. Indeed, as the education writer Owen Davis points out, this “no excuses” disciplinary approach is a direct adaption by schools of the “broken windows” policing theory.”
Joseph relates that black students are beginning to protest the abuses that are inflicted on them by paternalistic authorities. That is an awakening that could change the narrative.