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Democracy 101: How to Host a Public Hearing

July 1, 2010

Wow. So I followed a few tips to see what’s going on in New York City, and I found this total gem of a video. In it, Harlem community activist Bill Hargraves stands up during a so-called “public” hearing on a charter school expansion, and questions why even basic procedures– like intentionally notifying the public of the hearing; or clearly establishing who is hosting the meeting, and what organizations they represent– aren’t being followed. He ultimately ends up leading a walkout because it’s clear that the meeting is a sham.

For the record, I have no hard-line stance on charter schools. I stand for good schools, and good schools can take many forms. However, I do have a big problem with anyone who claims that they have the answer to systemic failure in low-performing schools (as charter advocates often do, despite the evidence that on average, charters do not outperform schools of similar populations), and then relentlessly pushes their agenda without considering any alternatives. I also have a big problem with important decisions being made without true input from the communities most affected by them. No organization has the right to ram their mission down a community’s throat; as my students and I always say, “Don’t hate, collaborate!”

Without further ado, here’s the video. (And be sure to check out Grassroots Education Movement NYC’s write-up on the hearings as well.)

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