Sunday, March 6, 2011

Understanding the Charter and Public School Division/Debate as Story

I have long believed that stories matter.  In the opening of Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, she writes:
I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren't just entertainment. 
Don't be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.

Narratives do not happen in a single time frame.  They are informed and reformed by time, intention, presence, and neglect. As such there are understories and yet-to-realize possibilities within stories. It's why when we ask someone to tell us a story, it is not Truth we seek, but a truth.

That seems important to remember in the discussion/debate/diatribe about charter schools and public education that is currently occurring.  It is what led me to pose to @tomwhitby on Twitter:  "i think it wise to ask why public is enamored with charters. what r we not seeing in our own backyards?"

See, that's the narrative I want to better understand.  Your neighbor who doesn't hate teachers but wants to latch on to a dream that right now seems to be expressed as a possibility through enrollment of a child in a charter. What's the story/stories your neighbor is telling him/herself about schooling, learning, possibilities, and desire? What are the stories we need to be hearing?

I am less curious to know what Arne Duncan, @BillGates @DianeRavitch have to say--not because I don't value their words, ideas, contributions, and insights--but because I wonder if they really know the stories of your actual neighbor either.  They know policy, business, and unions and the stories used to position these entities in what seems to be an endless play for power.  In many ways their stories seem like the same story, with interchangeable good and bad characters.

So I want to ask if there is a method by which stories of our local neighbors, not filtered, can be collected and shared?  I want to know the stories my neighbors in northern NJ are telling themselves about learning, schools, teaching, charters, and public schools.

I think Silko's right. Stories, they aren't just entertainment. We shouldn't be fooled. They are all we have.

I'm suggesting we start listening.

I'm wondering what you think.   Any ideas?


  1. Terrific idea. We need to listen to our neighbours more, and really listen not just listen for disagreement.

    While we might be thinking that a "one size fits all education system" doesn't work, our neighbours just want one that works for THEIR children.

  2. Thanks David. Just wondering how such storytelling might be facilitated and if there would be a will to listen...

  3. Parents want control of what happens in their children's lives. A charter school offers that promise. Whether or not it actually delivers on that promise is another issue-some do; others don't.

    The narrative idea will work if everyone who tells their story tells the truth.

  4. That's just it Dan, I suspect truth is a relative term. I am deeply interested in knowing individual's sense of the truth. Think it is important to listen in order to better understand.


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