The New-New Thing In Education: Being Aware/Being Involved

Many years ago I worked for Charles Schwab Inc. while in Denver, Co. People  (family, friends, etc.)were constantly telling me how privileged/fortunate I was since Schwab had such high values and cared about the common folk. The implication was that Schwab was the best house on the street since that was how Schwab was marketed. How would I know to  think otherwise- I was recently out of college. My father had invested with Schwab since the dawn of the operation when they were in Sacramento and they seemed to honestly care about making everyone an investor so they could obtain part of the American dream. In fact, at the time I worked there, Schwab was the  darling of San Francisco and anyone with an inkling of liberalism.

All was well in theory until Charles Schwab Inc. and the board of directors determined that going after big money would make the firm more profitable – it was exactly what every other firm on the street was doing so why not Schwab?  They sold their soul and the 1% got wealthy, the 99% (including employees who were not directors or unit presidents/vp) got stock option rights to buy shares of Schwab at a discount because paying employees what they were worth would not be profitable. Unless you were the 5% who made Schwab a  life career, you took a bath in very dirty water about 1998 and forward as Schwab, now wealthy like other houses on the street, began to disband employees over profits. I had left the firm (I felt Schwab was losing its mojo and cache) to pursue a larger dream – Peace Corps.  I, like most employees, who worked for Schwab during the go-go 90’s took a cold bath of reality and in realizing I was underpaid when I worked for them (remember the stock options). I later  took another bath when stocks went down and I needed to sell. Schwab, like every other firm was also affected by the most recent Wall Street and banking debacle, in spite of how it is worded on Wikipedia.

Who lost out? Well, it would appear the average investor or the 99% including me as I was once a ‘believer’. Whether it was mortgage-backed securities or not – investors took a hit, not the corporation. This is along the lines of ‘the house never loses’ in Las Vegas.

I bring all of this up as an example of perception versus reality and how we so wish to perceive what is being fed (read: marketed) to us that we truly overlook what is going on in the middle of the situation.

As with making money, education is not without a ‘fee’ for service. The fees paid take many forms: studying, fund-raisers, PTA, support of school teams, attending events. The list is too onerous to complete here.  No matter how much the new-new thing is touted, the new-new thing becomes yesterdays cold bath in the light of day if you do not pay attention.  In the late 1990’s to now (2012), charter schools were touted as the panacea for this ailing nation. We went from the’ everyone will go to college (the implication of this meant everyone would obtain a college degree – understatement is great marketing)’ to the light of day where reality crept in and getting to college is not as easy as it looks, no matter who is in the White House. Sadly, charter schools were supposed to improve everything.  The two articles above are but a very thin slice of a bigger picture that  charter schools, like Charles Schwab Inc.,  do not possess the luster the marketing and PR firms would like them to endow upon them.

As with the reforms being voted on in Congress and hopefully applied to banks, brokerages and mortgage lenders, charter schools themselves were given a revisit.

The issues at the top of this page are small in comparison to the marketing ploys of charter schools. It is doubtful that anything of value will come from the CA State Board of Education ordering new rules in 2011  to clarify how charter schools are granted statewide operating privileges. The action comes in the wake of a July 2010 Court of Appeals ruling that found the CA State Board of Education  improperly awarded statewide status to Aspire Public Schools, a charter school company founded in 2000.  The reason: being aware versus wanting to believe.

The parents of children at Miramonte Elementary School in  Los Angeles probably believe a charter school would be far better then LAUSD in light of recent events. Since Aspire Public Schools did not make the lawsuit(s) above newsworthy, parents will be fed exactly what they wish to believe.

Hopefully parents will realize it is about involvement – day in and day out. It is about being aware and it is about paying the ‘fees’ for their children to be educated.  These horrible events happen everywhere – unfortunately they happen most when people are not watching and not aware.