More follow-up on my review of David Whitman's new book, Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism:
The book raises a number of interesting questions, many of which I'd like to discuss this week. The central tenet of the book is essentially that paternalistic schools are better for poor students living in the inner-city. The follow-up question would be whether they're better for everybody.
In other words, should we be replicating (for example) the KIPP model in suburbs and wealthy areas -- or do inner-city students benefit uniquely from the KIPP model?
I think the book implies that it's the latter. Whitman writes that these schools assume that "the poor lack the family and community support, cultural capital, and personal follow-through" to succeed (p. 35). In other words, these kids have some gaps that these schools fill. If a student does not have these gaps, would attending such a school benefit them as much?
If the answer to that is no, then that would lead us to a situation where the inner-city poor attend schools that are very different from those that the middle-class and wealthy attend. Of course, that's already the case -- but I would argue that it's not necessarily purposive right now. In other words, all schools right now are supposed to operate the same way, they just don't due to a number of factors and constraints. But what if a school in Scarsdale and a school in the Bronx were designed differently from the beginning on the theory that different populations need different types of schools? And then the really tricky question becomes what to do when a school has a mix of students from different backgrounds.