Annoying the Bleeding Heart Educator
Dr. Ben Chavis, successful principal and now author of Crazy Like a Fox, used the American Indian Model of Education (AIM-Ed.) to revive American Indian Public Charter School. My guess is that his story bothers the elitists of our profession who believe in touchy-feely education. I'd also wager he's pissed off the unions and a host of other education related sectors. It will come as no surprise to some of you that I am enjoying his story.
The AIM-Ed. model has four components:
1. Family Culture--He doesn't mean the student's family or the student's culture. Chavis explains, "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..."(65). The AIM-Ed. model seeks to create a culture of family within the school community. Teachers caring passionately about their students' needs and success. Chavis wants to teach his students how to act appropriately and how to succeed in school and life.
2. Accountability and Structure--Chavis writes, "When you look at areas in which minorities succeed--sports, military, and church--you realize what they have in common. They are all highly structured and have serious consequences for stepping out of line. Public schools in the inner city, for all their talk of being culturally sensitive and aware, don't put practices in place that work for the demographic they serve. Instead of using discipline and consistent role modeling, they impose an impersonal system on students, which causes chaos"(55).
3. High Expectations--AIM-Ed. philosphy believes students can succeed in spite of all the economic barriers. "We believe in our students," Chavis explains. "We do not play the victim card at our schools. I don't want to hear that crap from the students, families, teachers, or any staff...because I know that low expectations yield low success rates and cheat students" (85).
4. Free Market Capitalism--Here, Chavis has the luxury of having made a good deal of money prior to taking over American Indian Public Charter. He pays students for perfect attendance. We don't have that ability. But, the principle of capitalism stands out. Make students compete.
Now, if you argue with 1-3, we could never work together. Urban schools are not finding success because we have failed to believe the same about our students as suburban schools believe about their students. You can argue funding and all the other trite rationales, but in the end, we do not have strong structures, accountability, or expectations. And we certainly don't have a family culture or community. The size of urban schools prevents this in most cases.