I’m with Jay Mathews in his column about David Whitman’s new book, Sweating the Small Stuff. The subtitle, “Inner-city schools and the new paternalism,” needs work. I haven’t spent as much time in KIPP classrooms as Jay has, but I’ve watched enough to understand the roots of the subtitle. To say the schools are highly structured is an understatement. But they sure do work. Like Mathews, I have struggled to come up with a good term for the KIPPs, Uncommon Schools, Green Dots, Achievements Firsts, Masterys, etc. I call them the “elites,” which is accurate but somewhat objectionable as well. Former Eduwonk guestblogger Michael Goldstein (we guest bloggers make up a support group, absent all the long meetings and white wine) has a good take on the book here.
Writes Goldstein: “Is telling a kid to tuck in his shirt a “middle class value?” Go to a poor black church on Sunday, and to a middle class white church, and tell me who has got the tucked in shirts.”
One saving grace for the “paternalism” subtitle: In the long run, what matters most about these schools is what happens to these students in college. And if paternalism is the only academic glue holding together their lives, then the free wheeling college life will unravel that paternalism, and all that academic discipline, in a matter of days.
–Guestblogger Richard Whitmire