KIPP Should Change Its Name To CIPP: Updated

This is a re-post from September

KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program.  I think it should be CIPP, Compliance Is Power Program.

I mostly work with young students not yet in high school. All my classroom experience is k-3 with some subbing in high and middle school thrown in before I was credentialed.  I now work with all ages in a private practice.

My experience in a Title 1 district taught me much. I learned how poverty can stifle a child's ability to learn.

I watched many of my students interact with their parents and the negative interactions I have seen show me KIPP style indoctrination is a no-good and rather blunt instrument.

For you teachers, this will come as nothing new or even interesting.

Many students are parented in a way that I can only call "be seen but not heard." It is a typical family dynamic I see constantly. Young kids are told to shut up by their parents. They are manhandled and insulted.  They are often being raised by an exhausted grandparent. They are sometimes homeless, almost always car-less, and in need of dental care.  They are not fed well at home and need to come to school to eat. They live in Section 8 housing in a crappy part of town.  Homework is hard because there isn't a place to do it, or time to do it, or anyone to help do it.  Many parents/caregivers expect the school and teacher to educate their child--entirely. Why?

Let me stereotype:

Because these families, mostly impoverished, don't raise their kids the way I raise mine or you raise yours. We hug our children, listen to them, enrich them, read to them, feed them, show them they are important to us, and love them and show them they are wanted. We have books in our houses and we talk with (as opposed to to or at) our children. It's what privilege and good role models allows us. It's also, probably, how we were raised. Our curiosity was encouraged and engaged. Our parents were role models. School was an adjunct to an education, not the be-all and end-all.

For those students who don't get that kind of parenting, schools are the only place left to provide it. And that's how my classroom operated. I was a fantastic dad/teacher in the classroom. It was my job to teach BIG ideas, along with the standards, of course. But standards were almost beside the point. Standards are easy to learn when you are exposed to big ideas and connections. That's why school for me and my son, and most of you and your children, was not a struggle. We were ready.

My classroom was a community and everyone in that community was respected for who they were and what they could do.  I encouraged my kids to seek each other out for help--classrooms are filled with talent and all one needs to do is learn about each other to find out.  My job is to help each student find out what they are good at and use that as a means to an education--academic as well as social.  I must validate each child's skills and abilities.  Everyone needs validation.  It is a form of respect.  It also builds confidence, something poverty tends to quash.

My classroom was fun because learning is fun.  Our brains, kid's brains especially, are wired for learning.  It's what brains do--brains are pattern-seeking devices.  When I provide/expose/clarify patterns for my students, they flourish and their brains hum along.  This can't be done without spontaneity.  KIPP is the opposite of spontaneous.

KIPP chooses compliance over connections. KIPP chooses behavior over knowledge.

My most ignorant, unworldly students needed parenting and exposure to things not presented in the home. School is where they got attention, concern, validation, and love. I gave them time to explore and become interested and curious. I answered every single question anyone had.  I stopped reading out loud when the story brought up something worth talking about.  Then I taught them all I could about what interested them. It's called authentic learning, and it is what parents do when they watch their child focus on something, like a flower or a bug, without interrupting or analyzing, but rather going along and facilitating.

Everyday I had students who wanted to come to school because they knew I was there to help them, not scold them, not to get them to comply "because I said so" but because we are happier when we cooperate.  My classroom was a place where kids learned how to be people first, not robots.

People learn by seeking out patterns.  Poverty precludes unobstructed curiosity.  KIPP reinforces the obstructions.

Good teachers don't drill and kill (well, sometimes it's actually okay). Good teachers don't stifle, they amplify and validate, redirect and focus, excite and explain.

KIPP schools intimidate, single out, and make rigid all the things that should not be rigid. Respect and concern work better than fear and intimidation.

If we want young people to do well in school they need a family that has the luxury of being able to provide stability. America just hasn't figured out what to do about it yet.

Well, here's a start:

1. Universal health care
2. Free high quality early childhood education

Update:  I need to add how the name KIPP came to be.  Harriet Ball, who heard god and left teaching to teach teachers, had a chant she used (chants are for poor, black kids) that went like this:

You gotta read, baby, read.
You gotta read, baby, read.
The more you read, the more you know,
Cause knowledge is power,
Power is money, and
I want it.

The KIPP founders heard the chant at a conference and liked it.  I don't.

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