First of all, there are no real two sides. There are no anti-reformers. They're all reformers; they just have different ideas about what the reforms should be and how they would be best achieved. There are certainly people who fall into different camps on certain issues, for example people who want to use pay for performance based on test scores, school-choice advocates, people who think reading should be taught by using phonics, people who think there should be no homework, and on and on and on. But there's no two camps; there's tons of them. Even people who agree with one another on many things have some pretty significant differences.
Nor is there anyone really defending the status quo. For one, at its heart the whole process of educating people means challenging the most basic of status quo's, that of being uneducated. Second, there's no one status quo, meaning everyone in the debate has different opinions about which part or practices of our education system they'd like to keep and which they'd like to change. For example, some would like to keep NCLB pretty much as is--they want to preserve the status quo in the case of NCLB. Others think the larger class sizes in places like California (and I don't care what the law says there, unless your PTA is rich, the class sizes in CA are large) are not problematic--they want to preserve that status quo. Some people think the current teacher evaluation system used in their district is pretty good as is--they want to preserve that element of the status quo.
Now there are certainly hard core ideologues who stick to one platform of belief-based policies, but those people should be ignored anyway, as knee-jerk reactions generally indicate a lack of thought and understanding (though granted it's hard to just ignore someone when they are in a position of power or have gobs of money).
This is absolutely not some sort of "why can't we all get along" statement--that's silly. People don't always get along, and when they have differences of opinion, they argue about them. Even after that, they won't necessarily end up agreeing. There's nothing inherently wrong with this. In fact, it's healthy (disclosure: I was raised by lawyers). Furthermore, when your government implements policies you don't agree with, you should protest them. That's how a democratic society is supposed to work. Finally, those who use polarizing language to urge people to stop being polarizing are practicing the equivalent of trying to get people to stop swearing by telling them to "cut the fucking cursing out, god damn it!" I don't find that particularly effective or genuine.
Yes, sometimes people (present company included), get carried away in their rancor and resort to false accusations and hyperbole. However, sometimes in the course of debate you are forced to articulate your argument in such a way that leads to a richer understanding of it. Likewise, sometimes in the course of debate someone else challenges your thinking and you change your views.
It's important to be thoughtful not just about the issues in education we're debating, but also about how we frame the debates. When we talk as if there are just two sides or two camps, we miss the finer details of the policies we're discussing, distracting from the more crucial issues and obscuring their complexity. Plus, although it seems simplistic in one way to say, "there are two sides here," it's ultimately very confusing because at different points you'll perceive people changing "sides" when really they just have a certain opinion on one issue.
When people frame the debate inaccurately, at best it's ignorant and at worst it's dishonest. Let's work harder on not being either.