Bad Schooling Ideas Never Die
February 07, 2009, 03:43 AM
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After I reported yesterday that Bill Gates had given $1 million in 2001 to long-time Weatherman fugitive Rick Ayers (brother of President Obama's extremely distant acquaintance Bill Ayers) to start "small learning communities" within Berkeley High to, among other things, take students to Cuba to study "social justice," a reader who graduated from Berkeley High in the 1970s reported that the exact same idea had already been tried way back when the Ayers brothers were making bombs instead of agitating for "small schools."

And it failed then in the 1970s, too, just as Gates has discoverd his couple of billion bucks he spent promoting the Ayers Bros. hobbyhorse has failed in the 2000s. From Time Magazine, April 10, 1972:

Now a few public schools are trying to create some alternatives of their own within the system, using wings of existing buildings, storefronts and lofts to house small subschools, each with a different educational emphasis. The intent is to break up the impersonal mob scene that many schools have become, and to give students choices—even if it sometimes means letting them choose racial separation.

... But the trend has gone farthest in Berkeley, Calif., which now has 18 such schools at all levels and plans to add six more next fall. ... In 1968, Berkeley became the first city with more than 100,000 people to integrate its schools voluntarily by busing both whites and blacks (38% of the pupils ride to school). But Berkeley's integration brought demands from minority groups for more attention to their particular learning problems and more emphasis on their cultures. At the same time, many of Berkeley's middle-class white kids were in open rebellion against what they considered stultifying school rules and courses.

For both groups, "the melting pot never melted," says Larry Wells, coordinator of the alternative schools. Instead of trying to submerge diversity, Berkeley is now trying to encourage it, replacing the image of a melting pot with that of a mosaic....

Berkeley High is a six-block-square complex of buildings holding 3,000 students. For approximately 1,800 of them, the conventional curriculum of courses—and a rich fare of electives—is fine. But 1,200 students have chosen to enter the more cohesive atmosphere of one or another of the six alternative high schools that are housed within the big complex.

Community High, for example, is earnestly disorganized. There long-haired boys and girls help screen prospective teachers, call staff members by their first names, and get phys. ed. credit for karate. Both blacks and whites take courses in "Soul in Cinema" and transcendental meditation. ...

Most of the alternative high schools are kept integrated by aggressive recruiting and informal quotas (Community High, for example, has 65 Third World students and 120 whites, with a white waiting list of 75). The Agora School aims specifically at fostering an appreciation of racial differences and keeps its staff and student body exactly one-quarter each white, black, Chicano and Asian. But three other alternative schools that meet away from Berkeley High are less concerned about integration.

Blacks Only. The Marcus Garvey Institute, housed in a former factory, is devoted to "taking care of business," chiefly for black students, including some who are on the verge of dropping out. Graded, seminar-type classes offer "Black Economic Development," emphasize basic math and reading. Whites are welcome, the staff insists, but since blacks assumed control this fall, whites have dropped to 12 in the enrollment of 60. Going even farther, Black House accepts only blacks, and Casa de la Raza takes only Chicanos....

More than just race is at stake, for the issue touches upon the central problem in all the proposals for decentralizing the nation's large institutions. from auto plants to city governments. Self-determination easily becomes narrow parochialism. In Berkeley, principals of the conventional schools that accredit the small units worry that the alternative schools may become too haphazard to remain worthy of their diplomas. The small schools' volatile independence, on the other hand, is often precisely what makes them useful as escape valves....

Berkeley's original subschools began with modest grants from the Ford and Carnegie foundations; the system now has a 21-year, $3.5 million grant from a new federal experimental schools program that provides $200 extra for each child in a subschool—on top of an average per-pupil expenditure of $1,675, one of the highest in the nation.

My reader writes on what happened later in the decade:
In the fall of 1976, there was a crippling teachers' strike, the grant money had run out and the sub-schools were crumbling. We all had a private laugh at the black separatists suddenly having to change their rhetoric and actually seek common ground with the rest of the school to try and keep their fiefdom going. Only one or two of the sub-schools survived, informally, and those were for white overachievers.
Then, Rick Ayers revived the failed small (radical indoctrination) schools within Berkeley H.S. idea around the beginning of the decade and got a half million from the feds and a million from the Gates Foundation. Academic failure ensued once again, and just before the Gates Foundation grant ran out in 2007, Ayers quit and enrolled in the Ph.D. in Education program at UC Berkeley so he can train teachers rather than students, propagandizing wholesale rather than retail.

This is an example of a general rule: Although the K-12 education industry is obsessed with promoting "new methodologies" (i.e., panacea-of-the-month), there aren't any. Schooling is an old, old business, and just about everything has been tried before, and proven not to be the miracle breakthrough that was hoped for. But memories are short, and a sucker is born everyday, with Bill Gates being merely the richest sucker, so why give them an even break