To the Success of The Education Movement



“What are the ingredients that any successful movement needs?” asked John Blake in his article Why some movements work and others wilt. Here are excerpts from the paper:

“Remember four rules:

1.  Don’t get seduced by spontaneity. Spontaneity is sexy. Yet spontaneity is overrated… Successful movements are built on years of planning, trial and error, honing strategies for change. A good movement should already have an organizational structure set up to take advantage of a spontaneous act that grips the public…William Barber’s advice for movement builders: Don’t wait for the right spark to organize. Do it now. ‘No matter where you are now, now is the time to build coalitions,’ Barber says. ‘You do it now because when the moment comes, the only thing that will be able to save you is to be together.’

2. Make policy, not noise. Successful movements just don’t take it to the streets. They elect candidates, pass laws, set up institutions to raise money, train people and produce leaders, observers say…. A successful movement is filled with people who know that it is wise at times to compromise…. Cast a vision of America that appeals to all types of people.

3. Redefine the meaning of punishment. The belief that modern Americans lack the right stuff to rise up is ‘hogwash.’… ‘As dark as things may seem at a given moment,’ Sam Pizzigati says, ‘things can change very rapidly when a social movement takes off.’… The redefinition goes like this: ‘No punishment anyone can lay on me can possibly be any worse than the punishment I lay on myself by conspiring in my own diminishment,’ says Parker Palmer.

4. Divide the elites. ‘Elites help movements when they feel their own interests are threatened,’ says Pizzigati.

There is one final lesson for anyone who wants to join a movement. Victory is fleeting and setbacks are inevitable. At times, it can seem like it was all a waste.”

Now knowing what makes movements successful, can those of us that fight for strengthening public schools by doing what is best for students see why the standards, testing, and accountability movement has come so far?

In The Crucial Voice I wrote, “The modern standards movement politically overpowered, but did not destroy, the modern community education movement.” And I will tell you that when I read that the Mott Foundation now supports the Common Core National Curriculum movement, my heart sank a bit because it was Charles S. Mott who originally supported Frank Manley in his efforts to develop and spread the community education concept — setbacks? Yes, a few.

“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” — Abraham Lincoln

History Uncovered

        “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as the job gets done.”

The problem with this quote by Frank J. Manley is that his modesty left his concept vulnerable to corruptive and destructive influences.

With help from philanthropist Charles S. Mott, Manley fathered, fostered, and grew the Modern Community Education Concept that some trace back to John Dewey’s philosophy of community-centered schools.

Frank Manley believed “that basic human needs cannot wait — that our social institutions cannot compensate tomorrow for what they fail to do today.”

Manley built a vehicle in which to spread his vision of individuals participating in solving the problems of their own communities using existing resources. That vehicle is the community education concept. It is a concept; not a program, not a one-time “fix” that can be provided for a school or community through a grant. It must be taught, practiced, and perpetuated.

How Frank Manley Saw Community Schools

Manley saw community schools bringing together all the elements for educational success (resources, people, activities, supports) and he could envision the necessity to bring all the community “forces” together to focus on community needs through involvement in the education of our youth, as well as our youth being involved in helping their own community. It is the same basic philosophy that 4H is based on—learning by doing with well-trained guidance.

This is not a foreign concept; it is an American concept. And after 30 years of experience with its success, Mr. Manley brought the idea before the Office of Education in Washington D.C. Then in 1965, without credit being given to Frank Manley, Frank (Francis) Keppel served as the chief architect of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act whose foundation for strengthening and improving America’s schools was obviously the community schools concept.

Voices from the past...waiting to be rediscovered.

Voices from the past…waiting to be rediscovered.

This idea was free and was spread through public institutions of higher learning. But what happened? Why hasn’t this vehicle taken us further down the road?


This was part 4 of ten blogs on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that started with The March Begins. Next: History Repeats