Nope, the dialogue between myself and SFER is far from being done. Yesterday I had two phone calls from SFER students, both founding members at separate universities. They went great. It was a lot of hearing each others’ perspectives on different issues, in addition to clearing up misconceptions previously held. As I stated before, I appreciate constructive criticism. Although I may disagree, I think it’s important on my end to at least make the effort to listen what they have to say.
In the end, it was a lot of agreeing to disagree, but agreeing to keep the dialogue open. The one student who attends Princeton recommended I attend a meeting sometime this semester since I’m so close. Agreeing it’d be a way to get a better jist of what they’re about. The student I spoke to from Ohio University told me a great deal about his specific chapter. The one thing that took me by surprise was when he told me the discussions they hold at their meetings. They don’t hold it strictly to just SFER members, but invite other campus groups that may even hold opposing view points to their meetings for discussions. In addition, he told me he feels that the main goal of SFER, at least at his school, is to create more conversation on education reform.
From both calls, it was clear that there was still a significant support for charter schools. As I noted multiple times before, I believe public education is still the best route for equal education (but then again, their main goal seems to be closing the achievement gap). With that being said, both students referenced the “achievement gap” has the critical issue. Which again, makes me a little iffy. One of the students also brought my attention to the voices of the students–is there equal opportunity for student voices to be heard? He stated that he really likes SFER because:
- It serves as a “great platform.”
- They are nationally recognized
- Connected to important people
- They have easier access to funding
- They have a good reputation, so those making decisions will be more likely to listen to him
That concerns me because it brings about the question, will students be forced into sacrificing their beliefs so they can feel like they are being heard? Isn’t this kind of forcing some type of inequality itself? That our government\policy makers are choosing one group of students to listen to over another, just because of their association? Just thoughts I’d like to put out there.
Which is why the idea of creating an alternative is really appealing and important to me. As much as the students tell me over, and over, and over again that there is “no silver bullet,” and that they’re not pushing their beliefs on anyone, there are facts that cannot be ignored. They are attached to organizations that do push for a particular view, and students shouldn’t have to oblige by those principals just to have their voices heard. I respect their goals to close the achievement gap. But personally, as well as other students I’ve spoken to, there are issues in education that come before that. It is also important to not only look at what they are looking to do, but at what they’re not. They’re reluctance to believe in the importance of saving our public schools speaks for itself.
Actually, let me make an additional note. From what I gathered from the conversations yesterday, they both said something along the lines of, “I wish we didn’t need charter schools.” But, due to the state of where public schools are now, they are necessary.And one last thing, kind of off topic. I just wanted to throw in a personal reflection (I seem to be doing that a lot lately). I really need to work on speaking how I write. I love sharing this story, just because it was such blunt constructive criticism that sticks with me. One of my (absolute favorite) professors said,
“You know what’s really surprising, is the difference between the way you speak and write. You write brilliantly and so eloquently, but you struggle just to get a sentence out to me! Did you grow up in a home that didn’t really value conversation? (Ugh, is it that obvious?) I hope you work on that, because it’s hard knowing what you are capable of thinking, but seeing you struggle to get it out. Your thoughts are important and need to be heard, don’t let something you can improve on get in the way of that.”
I only mention this here because I definitely felt this on the phone. I think I even mentioned this prior to me speaking on the panel at Save Our Schools. It’s invigorating to finally come to the realization my voice is being valued, but now it is critical I improve on using it outside of my blog. I want (and must) learn how to speak as confidently as I write.
My apologies for slightly getting off topic! I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable sharing more personal thoughts on my blog. Hopefully that’s a positive thing.
Okay, well I think I’ll end there. I was actually supposed to go on a “blog and twitter detox” today, but apparently that didn’t work out so well.
If I catch some downtime this week, I’ll be posting up another critical look at SFER. It first came to my attention from certain documents someone sent to me from an SFER chapter. The documents are a little bit over a year old, so I asked Alexis & Catharine if they could send me the updated form. Alexis responded that they are have been updating and reviewing them this summer. Aside from the forms, it is still conveyed on their mission. We’ll see.
Have a great week,