I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Usual Suspects

Last Wednesday, while us teachers were actually in school and, you know, teaching, the usual elites were gathering at an "invitation only" event to talk about how they are going to save education from... I dunno, us? Must be, because we weren't invited.

But we're so lucky - Alexander Russo threw us a few crumbs:
COMING OUT FOR THE PARENT TRIGGER: It was notable to me that the organizers opened the summit with a screening of the parent trigger movie (Won't Back Down) and an appearance by Parent Revolution's Ben Austin, who also won one of NSVF's annual awards. From Two Million Minutes to Waiting For "Superman" to Race To Nowhere, the potential power of mass media to shape public option is clear, but the reform community has been publicly silent and privately dismissive of the trigger approach. Perhaps they've warmed to its potential or at least recognizing the danger of being left out of one of education's few really "live" issues for 2012 -- the kind of issue (along with cyberbullying) that fancy policy wonks don't take seriously but journalists and debate moderators ask political candidates what they think about.
I'm sure I'll say this about ten billion times before this is over, but Won't Back Down is a work of fiction. This "parent trigger"-based story did not happen. Are we going to base our foreign policy on Borat next?

But we shouldn't be surprised at policy stances based on fiction when the corporate reformers take this kind of stance:
*CONVINCING A SKEPTICAL PUBLIC: Wearing polka-dotted reading glasses and with a thick stack of notecards, NSVF president Ted Mitchell gave what I thought was a pretty good speech about the need for reformers to do things differently, and better. "While we were making progress on the ground, we were losing our case in the public opinion," he said. The claim that reformers have been waging a war on teachers has stuck. "We have to scale our work, and convince an increasingly skeptical public," according to Mitchell. To do so, reformers need to bring others into the conversation, including in particular teachers, whom Mitchell described as a natural ally. "We need to listen to what teachers are telling us, and we need to respond." [emphasis mine]
No, what you need to do is get out of our way and let us do our jobs.Your "response" is not required and, in fact, detrimental to the cause. You are not the experts - we are. This is our conversation and you have no right to decide whether or not we should be invited.

This is a level of disrespect that no other profession would ever tolerate. Can you imagine a conversation about health care reform where people who aren't medical professionals state publicly that we ought to change our tactics by listening to doctors? Where people with no experience or training in medicine lead policy and dictate how doctors and nurses actually do their jobs?

Russo can:
*STORMING THE BASTILLE: Inviting Howard Fuller to open the first full day of the summit was another interesting move, given his support for vouchers and his "storm the Bastille" rhetoric. In the past, Geoff Canada and Al Sharpton have played the role of elder black statesmen for the reform movement. And Fuller is a big change from Canada -- closer to Klein and Rhee. Some people thought it was an inappropriate choice. I thought it was a good reminder to reformers about the larger context in which they're working -- that they have to deal with impatient pro-voucher Democrats, one way or the other. Next year, Derrell Bradford, the New Jersey reform leader whom along with Ref Rodriguez and Danielle Smith blew up the Yale SOM summit in 2011?
Hey, Alexander, I have just the wacky, craziest idea! Wanna hear it? OK - now, understand, I know this is just nuts! But how about, instead of having a guy who has never worked in school give the address, how about you get - hang on for this one - an actual teacher! You know, one of those teachers who you just said you need to listen to?

Boy, how do I come up with this insane stuff?
*There wasn't much buzz about Rahm Emanuel at the reception after his conference-ending appearance. His remarks and answers were repetitive sound bites and there was a massive disconnect between what he was talking about and the turmoil within the Brizard team and the teachers union and all the rest. He's only been in office for a year, and I think most folks are going to take a wait and see approach. He's got the authority to do all sorts of things -- charter the district, implement a city-level version of the parent trigger. But it's been a bumbly, stumbly first year, what with the awkward rollout of the extended day and the staff shakeup around Brizard. There are some good people working on district change in CPS. There could be a strike.
The fact that the teacher bashing and extraordinarily ignorant Rahm Emanuel was invited to close this thing tells you all you need to know about this "summit," brought to you by (from the actual website):

They can't bring Chicago teachers and Rahm together, but they found peace between the Waltons and Target. And Pearson's just there for the kids...


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