Galtung (1969) defines violence in part as that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual. ‘No excuses’ charter schools treat children as behavioural pawns and do nothing to make the world a more humane place. Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, pulls in a salary of over half a million dollars a year to run Success Academies all over New York. Her salary comes from a mix of private and public funds but there is no public accountability. A couple of days ago PBS Newshour ran a section on kindergarten suspensions, ostensibly at Success Academy schools throughout New York. A zero tolerance policy sees five-year-old children automatically suspended for swearing, and Moskowitz does not see this as problematic. Suspensions may also come from calling out the right answer twice without being called on and getting out of your seat without permission. My last couple of blog posts discussed ‘zero tolerance’ policies at ‘no excuses’ charter schools. The first time I read about discipline measures put on children in these schools I was physically nauseous. This Newshour segment makes me angry more than anything else. Test scores are all that SAs are about, and clean clothes are on hand for when children pee in their pants during test prep. Suspending very young children for trivial matters goes against anything any sane person would want for their children, and others’. All a five-year-old child learns from being suspended for getting out of his or her chair is fear of authority. Fear is no way to build a classroom climate that respects all in the room. ‘No excuses’ charter schools make it an offence to talk unless called upon. This is potentially the most egregious element of a ‘no excuses’ policy, but it’s up against stiff competition. We all learn best in a social environment. We are social beings and need to talk about our world, about our opinions, about trivial matters, and more. It angers me that I even need to spell that out. Fear breeds resentment, and fear of suspension for simply being a child, and being a human being, is an awful lesson to teach our children. Moskowitz says that suspending children early means less suspensions in later years. If Success Academies really were about the children, their suspension rate would not be three to four times higher than in public schools. It is incomprehensible that Eva Moskowitz sees a ‘zero tolerance’ approach as fair and equitable. It goes against all we know about child development. I worry that these five-year-old children will either turn into automatons by following rules that build neither empathy nor compassion; or become so resentful of a system that is constantly pulling them down, that violence will ensue. Violence is already being carried out against all children in ‘no excuses’ charter schools. It is time for the violence against young children to end.
Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), 167–191.