Playing Both Sides

Considering the politics of America in general and education reform in particular, it is no wonder progress as a nation is stalled. Ordinary Americans — the real engines of advancement — are being played for fools.

rhetoric-is-the-art-of-ruling-the-minds-of-men-art-quoteBuzzwords have been used to persuade us into following one reform path or another and to repel us from uniting for our common good.

Here is a non-education “reform” example — “climate change.” Buzzzzzzzz!

Have you heard the buzz?

Have you heard the buzz?

I’m from Michigan and witnessed first-hand how industry polluted our rivers. Having played frequently in the Kalamazoo River downstream from factories, I’m sure my body must be filled with all kinds of pollutants. We talked about the problems in those kinds of human terms. The problems eventually required federal funds (our tax dollars) to cleanup after the moneymaking polluters.

It was a pollution problem and We the People were making headway in calling the polluters into account …. until it became a “climate change” problem and we all got sucked into a political battle rather than the moral battle of right versus wrong that pollution was and is. And divided we fell prey to the politics of “climate change” because we let the powers that be change the conversation.

In the American education war, three of the big trigger-words have become “equality” (for the right), and “turnaround” and “improvement” (for progressives). Yeah, really. Buzzzzzzz! And off you go!

Please think about this: Do we believe that there are some schools in this country needing improvement and for the sake of the children in them, we should focus support on improving those schools? Are there not schools in your state that have consistently had a bad reputation as far as academic achievement or safety issues? What about schools that parents (even teachers) have repeatedly avoided putting their own kids in? Don’t we somehow need to turn those schools around to make them more acceptable, even desirable?

When the Obama administration decided on four “turnaround models,do you think ALL the alternatives they could have chosen from have been made known to the public? I know they haven’t, and those alternatives won’t get a fair hearing on the stage of public opinion because they talk about “improvement” and “turnaround” processes. The public’s well has been soured (or polluted).

Please consider this: if I am one of the “good guys” (truly have children’s best interest at heart), will you reject what I say if I use a word that repels you? Or can you choose to stand and fight against your inner feelings recognizing that what you feel has become a conditioned response?

Until we stand strong for better public schools for all, we will go down divided by silly details like our choice of words. Allowing both sides to be played against each other is allowing children to be left behind.

Preserve What Is Good

It is the time of year to preserve all the good things coming out of ones garden and get rid of the weeds before they have a chance to overwinter and multiply. Out with the bad and in with the good!

Synonyms for the word “preserve” include protect, conserve, safeguard, defend, save, and the word encompasses the concept of “caring for.” The opposite is “to destroy.”

So I’m left wondering if the public has any idea what is really at stake in the American Education Reform War. Can they distinguish the good from the bad? And do people comprehend the real war versus the more public and divisive battles?

We have fought over how to teach the three R’s, what reading materials to “allow,” and the place and time for teaching religious concepts. In our communities, we fight over funding, location of schools, and sports. We have always had “turf” wars and politically motivated power struggles, but this “reform” war is different.

It is now money driving policy versus people driving policy that is the real internal war raging in our country that has made its way to the schoolhouse steps.

It has brought a new complexity to the education wars: competition in opposition to cooperation, choice against commonality, rigor versus flexibility. And the stakes are high.

What is at stake? Our way of life, our communities, our long-standing and successful public education system — it is all for sale. And there is NO indication that the buyers have any intention of preserving what we have come to grow and cherish —all that we have made good. “They” don’t care about our children.

What is at Stake? What will you fight for?

What is at Stake? What will you fight for?

Political power directing education policy and practices is the internal war most urgently in need of ending. Having rigid ideological agendas driving education law, or leaving renewal processes stalled, is unacceptable.

Solution: Rock Solid Federal Education Law – BRIEF (the original federal education law was 35 pages), FOC– USED on equal opportunity for disadvantaged children and communities, and BASED on effective school principles and the school improvement process.

An informed public opinion driving policy will have a very different outcome than an uninformed or misinformed public pushing the hidden agenda of those who stand to profit. So, what do people need to know in order to preserve the public system?

The “Status Quo” of Reform

These two words “status quo” are tossed around frequently and conjure up some raw emotions for many who have tried, unsuccessfully, to improve their own schools. “Status quo” invokes visions of entrenchment on the part of administration, school boards, teachers, or, on the “other side,” the unions, education establishment, the politically powerful foundations, organizations, individuals, corporations, and their lobbying groups who pull the strings of education policy.

But if we all put aside our personal feelings a moment and think strictly about the big picture of “education reform,” then, it becomes clear what the status quo of reform efforts really is. Status quo literally means the current state of affairs.

Is America secure with the "status quo"? Do they know what it is?

Is America secure with the “status quo”? Do they know what it is?

For three decades, our education reform strategy has been based on high-stakes standardized testing. It is The Theory Behind No Child Left Behind.

The ideology wars — progressives vs. traditionalists, whole language vs. phonics, unions vs. anti-unionists — and the ongoing blame games would be of miniscule significance if we were focusing on what is truly important in an education reform effort — educating children. The status quo of reform has failed them miserably.

The status quo of education reform is test-based education.