First, do no harm

Dennis SparksAll but the most extreme ideologues would have to agree that Muskegon Heights, Michigan’s first fully-privatized school system, is doing harm to students in the name of helping them.

When I read this Michigan Radio report on the current state of affairs in Muskegon Heights I was reminded of the Vietnam-era strategy of destroying a village to save it.

The report begins:

“At least one in four teachers at the new Muskegon Heights school district have already quit the charter school this year. That’s after an emergency manager laid off all the former public school teachers in Muskegon Heights because he didn’t have enough money to open school in the fall. That means there have been a lot of new, adult faces in the district.

“Students say the high teacher turnover has affected them and top school administrators say it has held back academic achievement this school year.”

A minimal standard for reform efforts is that they do no harm to students. Non-maleficence, as they call it in the medical profession.

Sadly, that is clearly not the case in Muskegon Heights.

The reasonable part of me wants to say, “But on the other hand…” I want to believe that these are well-intentioned people, to acknowledge that this is a complex undertaking and that success will take time, perhaps even years, if it is to occur at all.

But there can be no “other hand” when it comes to the well-being of children who pass through our classrooms only once. They deserve far better than what the public school privatizers are giving them through Mosaica Education Incorporated.

Mosaica, first do no harm.


3 Responses to “First, do no harm”

  1. 1 Mary Valentine January 5, 2013 at 8:58 am

    We have remained silent while this situation has grown from bad to worse. It started with schools of choice, which instead of helping, has decimated schools such as Muskegon Heights. It is time to admit this approach is failing and we need to find real solutions. We need to meet the needs of the students in Muskegon Heights with real solutions: lower class sizes, libraries for all schools, stability of staff and leaders, social workers, school nurses. There is a great deal we can do to improve schools such as Muskegon Heights.

    The high teacher turn-over in Muskegon Heights is no surprise. it is time to stop the experiment and return to strategies that are known to be successful.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks January 5, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Thanks for adding your perspective, Mary. For interested readers, do you know of local, state, and/or national organizations addressing the serious problem of privatization of public schools?

  2. 3 G. Michael Abbott January 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks, Dennis and Mary, and NPR, for bringing this tragic situation to light. Muskegon Heights children have been ignored and choice is being inflicted on other children. Our children can’t wait. We need to find a solution now. “Choice” has a nice ring to it, but this approach is denying citizens the right to run their own schools.


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