Tag Archives: Renaissance Charter High School

Renaissance Charter High School’s Principal Responds To My Piece On Andrew Cuomo Video

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:

Assailed,

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.

Best,
Nicholas Tishuk
Principal
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.

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Renaissance Charter High School Requires Their Students To Shill For Governor Cuomo

9th and 10th graders at Renaissance Charter High School made the following video as an assignment. They did such a good job that it received a mention in the New York Times.

I suppose this is an example of the innovative teaching that goes on in charter schools. Of course, it is easy for students to make something like this when the school has proper video equipment. As you watch the video, ask yourself what the students might have actually learned from this project. Yes, maybe they got experience being in front of a camera. They also probably got a taste for what it means to be behind the camera. Finally, they most likely used editing equipment to take all of their raw footage and weave it into a comprehensive piece.

Public school children are perfectly capable of doing the same thing; all they need is the equipment. Of course, in the age of budget cuts that starve public schools, it is unlikely many of them would even have this equipment.

The students did a good job on the video. It is not their fault that their teachers required them to shill for Governor Cuomo. While some teachers might be impressed with something like this, I do not see the educational value at all. The only thing the students of Renaissance Charter High School learned from this video is how propaganda works.

The media does the same thing as the students in the video. They take the words of someone in authority, like a governor or tycoon, and broadcast it far and wide. If Cuomo says he is a lobbyist for students, then the media reports him as being a lobbyist for students. If President Bush says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, then the media will replay that line over and over until 300 million Americans believe it.

The teachers who gave this assignment were obviously not interested in developing critical thinking in their students. That would entail the students doing some investigative work, like why Andrew Cuomo would say such a thing in his State of the State speech (did they even learn what the State of the State is? Do they know what a lobbyist is?) Maybe it has something to do with being bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch. Or perhaps it has something to do with an opportunistic politician who wants to ride the wave of teacher bashing that pervades the country. Whatever it is, the kids at Renaissance will never know.

And this is why the public should not buy this claptrap that charter schools are somehow innovative laboratories of pedagogy. As far as this assignment was concerned, it was a net loss for the students. Sure, they might have gotten some experience in making a video. Yet, they carried out an exercise in media propaganda without knowing it. They will now think that all it takes to be on television is to become a mouthpiece for the rich and powerful. They have learned that political rhetoric is fact and the media’s job is to parrot this rhetoric far and wide.

Welcome to the world of education reform, where students are taught not to question the world around them. Welcome to Renaissance Charter High School, where students are given a top-flight education in shilling.

What I wonder is, does the staff at Renaissance see anything wrong with requiring students to mindlessly repeat what essentially amounts to a political stance? Do they see anything wrong with making an issue that has more than one side seem as if there is only one side?

Probably not. Something tells me that the teachers there are young and underpaid, without the skill or the knowledge to create activities that require actual thought on the part of their students.