Friday, December 30, 2011

It’s Not Just Negative, It’s Necessary

Real Education Reformers get a lot of slack for being too “negative”, for being loudly AGIANST policies, but not actively FOR much of anything.  I would like to take a moment and defend that tactic.

Right now, the hospital where I work is undergoing construction.  It is a much needed physical upgrade of our aging building.  In order to improve the nurses’ station, they had to completely tear down the old one to make space for something new.   And that’s the way I look at the education debate.  The corporate reformers fill the airways and newspapers and therefore public opinion with misinformation, propaganda, and lies.  As we career teachers understand about how learning occurs, sometimes you need to go back and correct false information before you can add new ideas to our brain’s schema.

This information correction is necessary to change the debate.  Right now, because of the constant erroneous information purposefully clogging the conversation, there is no room to hear what we real reformers DO believe in.  (I will try to write more on the effort to distract the public with talk of merit pay, teacher evaluation, teacher tenure, LIFO, and other unimportant secondary issues. But that is another post. ) We must clear away the chaff.  And that is the role of the online education warriors who dominate the social networking sites and online forums (um, thanks Alexander Russo?).

Another difficulty in switching the focus solely to positive proactive fights, is that those of us in the trenches of education understand that the kind of change that needs to occur will take real sacrifice and changes in the fundamental ways we do education in America.  (A change in how we fund schools off of local property taxes alone is an uphill battle that politically and financially will be costly. No charter school out in a neighborhood most people never go to is going to change the inequity in our system.  Corporate reform offers cheap, feel-good and completely ineffective fixes. But at least with corporate reform, people and politicos can pretend they are doing…something.  But again, I think these ponderings are best explored in separate posts.  Stay tuned.)

As I’ve said before, I strongly believe that now is the time to fight.  We need to be loud in our opposition of failed policies that hurt children.   And once we have the nation’s ear, then maybe we can tell them what might actually HELP our nation’s schools.


  1. Great post. What do we offer positively? A call for democratic control of schools where all voices will be heard. At that point the real reformers and real stakeholders will DEMOCRATICALLY come up with possible solutions through honest and open debate. A dream? Well, it's a better one that is being offered by the deformers.

  2. Your "pretending to do something" concept strikes a chord with me. I think the most obvious example of that right now is the Common Core Everything movement. We can't solve the problem of a quarter of our K-12 students living in poverty--the problem just feels too huge. But we can get a "blue ribbon commission" together, write standards, develop aligned tests and curriculum. We know, in our hearts, that it doesn't address the real problem, but boy howdy! We've done something, something we can point to.