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October 28, 2016

3 min

Dr. Jessica Spallino

The Emerging Doctrine of Schoolism

Today’s educational landscape is as diverse as ever and as new schools continue to emerge, so does the push against the traditional notion of schooling. At times this can be a harmonious flow and yet at others, it can create a competitive environment in a market that wasn’t necessarily built on opposition.

We live in a society of “Isms” and know an “Ism” to be a “distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice”. “Isms” such as capitalism, pluralism, and materialism have been present for hundreds of years. “Isms” are a societal norm that help to fulfill humans’ need to develop ways to separate themselves into distinct groups. Attaching or assigning oneself to an “Ism”, otherwise known as Groupism, helps to solidify an identity that is continuously growing and forming.

Though “Isms” play an important role in our need to be part of distinct groups and further our identity, they can take a turn that isn’t all constructive. Many social “Isms” such as racism and sexism have not greatly benefitted society and continue to cause discrimination and division. Those too attached to an “Ism” can often define the group they are part of, while defining the group(s) they are not part of and ultimately placing a higher value judgment on the former at the expense of the latter.

While running charter schools I have found the increase in competition within the public school landscape to cause some tension and a potential for discrimination against those not within the traditional scope. Undoubtedly, “Isms” can cause discrimination and we see this in the Groupist position of traditional schooling reflects a more favorable judgment on their approach and a less favorable judgment on those that educate differently, such as many charter schools do.

I have found myself in many positions where I felt like I was being judged and assumed less valuable because I run charter schools. I have been placed in positions where I have had to defend my organization, what I do, and how I approach educating students today. I have been treated as if I do not hold the student as my top priority. My organization has been held to an unfair standard of impossible perfectionism simply because we are not of the traditional Groupist mindset.

Just like traditional schools, charter schools are not perfect. We make mistakes and at times, get it wrong just as often as we get it right. We do however, learn from our mistakes and strive to always be better for our students and stakeholders. We thrive on the opportunity for choice in today’s educational market and we love to try new modalities, forms of instructional deliveries, and pedagogies for our students. We believe there is enough room and need for schools of all types in today’s landscape. Needs and demands are changing and expectations are expanding.

We are enjoying a time of diversity in all ways in our society today. People from a variety of races, backgrounds, and genders are earning a voice in our society and I believe it is time for charter schools to enjoy that same voice that has rightfully been earned. We have poured our hearts and souls into what we do and the students that we are ultimately committed to.

Social science studies have shown that diverse groups do better on creative group tasks than homogeneous groups. My hope is that the industry of education can demonstrate ultimate tolerance of diversity and avoid “Isms” when they can become discriminatory and destructive. After all, isn’t that what we want to teach our students?

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