A few days ago I wrote a piece about the kids of Renaissance Charter High School’s video celebrating Governor Cuomo’s promise to be a lobbyist for kids. Today, Renaissance’s Principal, Nicholas Tishuk, was gracious enough to post a response to that piece in the comments section. Here is his response:
Hello. A quick fact-check might be in order here:
1) The students in the video are in program studying New York State Policies, focusing on education and youth issues. No students were required to participate, they all volunteered.
2) This is the third round of videos these students have created. The first focused on a civil rights practicum last May to Jackson, Mississippi celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides, that we took with a Freedom Rider who works in East Harlem. Innovation chartered a bus invited students from 6 different schools including Boys and Girls HS, University Heights HS, Renaissance Charter, and Beacon students in East Harlem.
3) The previous round was focused on cyberbullying, after they had a chance to meet State Senator Jeff Klein and Pery Aftab, a nationally recognized expert on bullying.
4) This one was made in the lead-up to our practicum where our students will meet their local elected officials in Albany next month. Reading the State of the State speech was a part of their research and the video accurately coveys the students’ enthusiasm for the Governor’s message. You mileage may vary.
5) The school’s curriculum and educational model is steeped in experiential and project based learning. This is a decent example of that in action.
Renaissance Charter HS for Innovation
Mr. Tishuk is right to defend his school against what he might consider unfair criticism. The part about his response that stands out is this sentence: “Reading the State of the State speech was a part of their research and the video accurately coveys the students’ enthusiasm for the Governor’s message.”
I am really interested in knowing if their enthusiasm is well placed. There is a difference between reading something and reading it critically. As educators, we have a duty to at least to try to be objective. That means presenting our students with many views on the same issue. Do the students realize that every political speech entails rhetoric? If the Governor claims to be a lobbyist for children, does that mean that is actually the case?
In short, there is a fine line between education and indoctrination. As it stands, there is no evidence that the students of Renaissance were encouraged to get behind the rhetoric of Cuomo’s words. There is no evidence that the students are acquainted with the debate on education reform, including the role of charters in these reforms.
It remains to be seen how in depth the educators at Renaissance are encouraging their students to get into the issue. I have invited Mr. Tishuk to respond to this and I have given him the assurance that his views will not be suppressed on this website.
In my mind, this opens up the possibility that charter schools are indoctrinating their students to accept the premise of education reform. If that is case, then that is not just a little scary.