Columnist George F. Will describes Dr. Ben Chavis as "the most politically incorrect person on the planet (and) not coincidentally, one of the people most correct about inner-city education." Chavis is the author of Crazy Like a Fox (New American Library, 2009) about the several years he served as principal of the American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS)in Oakland, California, years during which he made a success of a formerly failing school serving primarily low-income minority students And he did this, as Will suggests, by not just ignoring standard beliefs but violating them.
Rather than summarize his experience as principal, here are his own words on schooling:
Funding, p. 147: "Taxpayers have been conned for years into believing the problem with public schools is that they don’t have enough money. Schools have plenty of funding; the problem is most school administrators operate their schools with no business sense and therefore wind up in debt."
Public schools, pp. 51-52: "I always say you couldn’t create a better system to destroy kids than what we call public education in grades six through twelve, especially for kids who are fragile, troubled, or from poverty. Children need stability…so why do we use methods that create inconstancy in their lives?"
Parental Involvement, p. 65: "I do not believe in requesting or relying on ‘parent involvement.’ We are not going to burden the family members of students who are barely making ends meet or tell them they are responsible for the school’s success or failure. That is hogwash. The staff and I are responsible for the school’s success, and I am responsible for its fiscal stability."
Credentials, p. 102: "…many credential programs brainwash educators to teach in a way that is soft, ineffectual, and focused on nonacademic topics, such as self-esteem and multiculturalism."
Self-esteem, p. 104: I’ve been in education for thirty years. I’ve never met a child who came to school in kindergarten or first grade with poor self-esteem.. I’ve never met one. They come to school feeling great about who they are. But once they get into school and they start taking all these cultural classes and self-esteem classes, at the end of the year they can’t read…Schools create identity problems, not families."
Paying students, p. 146: "Paying students for perfect attendance serves several purposes. First of all, it ensures they attend school…If students are not in school how can they learn? Second, the attendance money also supports my free market capitalist viewpoint that hard work equals pay and respect. Third, paying children to be in school makes money for the school because most K-12 public school funding in California is tied to…average daily attendance…In Oakland Unified School District, the absence of a sixth-grade student for one day costs a loss of over $35.. Paying a sixth-grader $50 at the end of the year for perfect attendance costs less than it would if that student missed two days of school."
NCLB, p. 154: "I have said many times, I love the No Child Left Behind Act! NCLB is the greatest education legislation that has ever been passed for the sake of minorities in public schools…the No Chid Left Behind Act ensures black, American Indian, Hispanic, handicapped, and special education students are provided the opportunity to compete with everybody else…The No Child Left Behind Act says all students will get an education, or we’ll let another organization take over…That’s moving in the right direction to me."
Liberals, p. 195 "…those far-to-the-left liberals who in my opinion are worse than the Ku Klux Klan. They pretend to be interested in minority students; however, they are only interested in their own personal agenda and pimp the students who are left in their care. Even when they know the facts, they adjust them to meet their goals of being leaders for poor minorities…They have taken over the public school unions. They go into overdrive to prevent Indians, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians from deciding what’s best for our children’s education. They keep us uneducated, and they make money in the process."
If you read only one book about education or school reform this year, this should be the one.