When I was twenty-five, I interviewed at a charter school in Brooklyn.
Before I sat down to talk to the dean, I observed a kindergarten class that looked nothing like any kindergarten class I had ever seen: just shy of thirty children sitting in rows on a carpet, each with legs crossed and hands folded, all completely and utterly silent.
In my interview, the dean asked me what I noticed about the class.
“They were very well behaved,” I said.
“Yes, they were. But they sure don’t come in like that,” he answered. With icy pride in his voice, he said: “It’s only because of the hard work of our staff that they act like that.”
I took the job – foolishly – and soon found out what this “hard work” meant: scholars, as we called them, were expected to be 100% compliant at all times. Every part of the…