Once more for the people in the back: Schools aren’t businesses, kids aren’t product, employers aren’t schools’ customers or clients, and standardized tests aren’t quality control. It is not schools’ primary function to produce (compliant, obedient) employees for the titans of industry, but rather self-actualized citizens who think critically and effectively and can create a better future for themselves and for all of us.

NOTE: pick the correct link

The purpose of public schools is to elevate all students. All public schools have the same basic goal and do not and should not compete with one another for resources, for students, for anything. Neither should public school students compete with one another for opportunities or status.

Whether schools or students, when they compete, there are winners and losers, and that is contrary to the premise of public education. Neither schools nor students should be subject to Darwinian “survival of the fittest”  pressures. Competition (fostered by so-called “school choice” and “accountability” initiatives) pits would-be allies — schools, principals, teachers, even students — against one another and “may the odds be ever in your favor.”

Recently, HawaiiKidsCAN, a branch of venture capital-funded “50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now,” published a critique (“analysis”) of Hawaii public schools based on 50CAN’s “four dimensions of a healthy and dynamic learning system.” Among the “lenses” they use to judge (“evaluate”) Hawaiʻi public schools, the competition lens is the most problematic.

In free market capitalism, competition is “good” (for those at the top of the food chain). In education, collaboration is essential, and a competitive model works against its central principles of equity and justice. When resources are allocated not on the basis of need but rather on the basis of “achievement,” the lion’s share goes to the lions (who need it least) rather than the lambs (who need it desperately).

 

Ala Wai Elementary school 4th graders kids students.

Schools exist to educate and elevate all students.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Examples may help.

A student whose parents work multiple jobs and still struggle to make ends meet — a student without a sense of stability and security at home, who may not be well nourished or well rested — needs as much or more from school than a student whose home life is stable and secure.

The playing field is not level, and competition inevitably favors the privileged, but public education shouldn’t. Or a school in a wealthy neighborhood, with many generous public-private partnerships (the problems with public-private partnerships call for a separate article), competes for state resources with a remote rural school.

Again, the playing field is not level, and the school with the greatest needs is least likely to “win” them in competition.

This is not “The Hunger Games.” Hawaii keiki deserve better.

This false, business-influenced model for education, based on scarcity and competition and evolutionary pressure, only perpetuates and widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Public schools are tasked with narrowing that gap. Public policy should instead reduce scarcity (adequately fund schools!) to meet the varying needs of both vulnerable and privileged kids, and foster collaboration — not competition — among public schools.

Collaboration and funding are key for Schools Our Keiki Deserve, not competition and scarcity.

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