How do you complain about a system you support? Because it’s been suggested that criticizing LAUSD only feeds its demise by contributing to the atmosphere of fear and/or negativity that ultimately “forces” families into the arms of privatized “public” schools, aka Charter Schools.

The fallacy is that if you don’t like what you experience, you should go elsewhere, namely out of the system.

Yet what sparks howls of protest from among those of us here by choice, is that the option to fix, not forgo, never seems to figure into the equation. In fact, it was once presumed a component of maturation to learn how to stay and resolve a problem, not just grab one’s toys and stalk away. The latter would be considered a spoiled, selfish, “entitled” and reactionary response, one indicating a need for attention to social, interactive and problem-solving skills.

And yet the political climate educationally as well as more broadly, establishes a response funnel where the presence of a problem is construed as evidence of an irretrievably broken miasma of permanent and irreversible failure from which immediate withdrawal is the only solution.

Conversely, then, acknowledging or pointing out problems in the system is considered tantamount to admitting irreversible “badness”.

Which as a participant in this system, is a horrible position to be put into.

A system is only a system when the capacity to repair problems is an integral part of it. The only cardinal mistake in terms of planning a system is to imagine that there will be no problems; repair must be built into the blueprint. Mistakes Happen; the only interesting question is: What are you going to do about it?

Thus it is not the case that my children’s traditional public schools are without problems, it is only the case that I feel hamstrung in pointing them out to, say, neighbors. Because the reaction is to file these complaints in the evidence for justifying why they ought not to consider attending their local public school and “must” seek out a special other-school instead. Addressing the problems is no longer considered an option, commonly.

The trouble with this is that the “other” school’s chief virtue is typically its otherness, not its essence: out of the frying pan and into the fire. How will it help matters to nurture a system that is not public, not open? Charter schools are essentially private in the sense that while families are “clients” of sorts, at the end of the day they have no codified right to contribute to the workings of the school, to know, never mind effect, how it spends its money or about curriculum decisions or any executive decisions at all. Charter Schools model a corporate structure with a board of directors that has no allegiance to parents or even students or fiscal responsibility toward them; its allegiance is to its Self.

The same peculiar stoicism that compels precipitate departure before considered repair, squeezes the latter-day “®eform” approach to evaluating teachers. Utilizing a flawed system of “Value Added” evaluation that is neither robust nor replicable, struggling teachers are tossed rather than schooled. And the real scandal is that by and large, teachers (especially in post-secondary education) are never properly schooled to begin with. If ever there were a profession that cries for apprenticeship, it would be this teaching one. Good teaching is a skill like most others, one that can be learned, and taught. Yet it is often presumed that good teaching is more akin to a gift from heaven than, say, learning double-digit entry.

However the choice to favor remorseless evaluation over thoughtful, instructive engagement, is an abdication of the commitment and responsibility to teach. This is true for teachers, just as it is so for students. The failure lies with those tasked with leading the learner, whether that is the teacher’s (administrator) or student’s (teacher) supervisor.

Over and over is the same precipitate story: in failing to evaluate with nuance a teachers’ skill and bring them up to par when found wanting, in failing to evaluate a local district school and contribute to its improvement when found wanting, in failing to evaluate a student fairly and appropriately on material they have actually studied and is age-appropriate, and to dub them wanting as a result of onerous tests – all of these instances are a different manifestation of the same unwillingness to stick with a problem – with “persistent” “grit”, to use two trendy terms – and fix it. Not toss it, not give up on it, not open a competing school system, but fix the problems.

This is the playbook of the ®eform School of Education; to foment a climate of stoicism where it becomes acceptable to cut loose and run … from the public realm and into the private.

When criticism is stifled within an atmosphere that considers it as a harbinger of failure rather than improvement, then indeed there is a systemic problem. Only it is not with the doings of the system but rather with the system itself.

Our schools must respond to its stakeholders not by failing its students, not by failing its teachers, not by failing to heed the criticisms of those within the system itself. Our schools must cease encouragement of flight from the district and fix the concerns of those remaining. Criticism is a means to improvement, but only If those tasked with fixing things actually mean to.