When I was 8 years old, I witnessed my teacher making another student cry. I can’t remember his offense, but I do remember that she made him stand in front of the classroom and hold out a dictionary until he broke down crying. This wasn’t an isolated incident. It was part of my teacher’s classroom management.
Quiet, obedient and nervous about the world, I was never the child who got into trouble. I was still traumatized watching the teacher victimize other children.
My parents were deeply religious people and chose to send me to a catholic school because they wanted me to learn my catechism. The fact that they chose this school for me did not negate the damage. Though I’ve always performed well academically, I’ve had a persistent fear of people and a general anxiety that has plagued me throughout my life. Watching other children humiliated did not serve me well.
I’m told by younger friends who also attended catholic school that they can’t imagine their teachers acting like this and that the experience is much more positive now. But I bring this up because of the video out of Success Academies showing a teacher berating her student for not knowing a math answer.
I know I’m seen as a little bit obsessive on the charter issue but I have some sense of what those children in No Excuses classrooms are experiencing. The fact that parents are choosing to subject their children to this does not erase the damage that these children are experiencing.
Children do not need to be abused to learn. Black and brown children deserve to be in education environments where they are treated like children and not prisoners. These No Excuse charter schools have proliferated across the country, and we’ve allowed it. We are allowing the abuse of children in the name of test scores. It’s a shame on us all.