Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It's all still the same reformy bubble

I followed the whole "social justice warrior" conversation that took place about a month ago from afar. I pretty much gave up being active in the national ed reform/ed reform skeptic community when I became more active locally. And then I kind of gave up social media activity and writing for pleasure--especially blogging, and tweeting--for my PhD program (as a compromise, I maintain a facebook page called "All Things Education"--you can "like" it without being my facebook friend). But, back to the topic at hand, I couldn't resist jumping into the fray on this one, even if the fray even if everyone else has already moved on.

I read (and cringed at) Robert's Robert Pondiscio's  piece, The Left's drive to push conservatives out of education reform piece the day it came out. When he was with the Core Knowledge Foundation, Robert was one of my favorite education thinkers and writers. We chatted online quite a bit and he even invited me to guest post at the Core Knowledge blog. We agreed especially about the importance of content knowledge, especially in literacy and the mis-guidedness of excessive teaching of "reading skills" at the expense of teaching literature, writing, the humanities, sciences, the arts, PE, math, foreign languages. I still read some of his work with great interest and will share it and recommend it accordingly. But this piece was really alienating and just utterly clueless.

Although there is much to rebut in the piece, I will only point out the problem with using the free market as a means to "take people out of poverty."
a) The free market, essentially where there's a profit motive, should never be used in the following service sectors (and no, I am not including the vending of clocks and what not to schools and to say that I am is just silly): education, military, healthcare, criminal justice, and social services.

b) The free market is dominated by the already powerful: white males and is designed to keep  (poor choice of words there) currently functions in a way that keeps those folks on top. The free market is not a neutral tool, it's not an equitable tool, and it's not a magical tool that you just sit back and let work its magic. It doesn't replace the hard, painstaking work that is obligated in democracy.

I am heartened that The New Schools Teachers Project Teach Plus for America Democrats for Education Reform 50CAN Stand for Children Students First Venture Project Fund are talking about and including voices from Black Lives Matters.

But when it comes down to it, I still fail to see much difference between conservative and centrist (really, centrist is a better term--most of these people aren't true liberals. If they were, they wouldn't be so cavalier about dismantling public democratic institutions) ed reformers. It's all still one bubble. I mean, I guess maybe vouchers separates them but not always. Okay, gay marriage, for sure. But that's about it.

So the centrist reformers are ready to listen and include more of those voices, but ultimately, that doesn't really matter. What matters is: power and on whose terms acts of education reform are committed.

In our society, people who aren't white males, and to a lesser extent white females, and an even lesser extent queer white folks, don't have power. Black people and Native Americans have the least power of all.

So the real questions for these ed reformers become:
1. What are you going to give up? What are you going to relinquish? (And I don't mean the reformy "edu-visionary" version of relinquish as in give up your power and kid to the free market and shut up kind of relinquishment. I mean actually giving up power because you have a unhealthily disproportionate amount of it.)

2. On whose terms are you going to enact and implement education reform policies? Will this be an actual democratic process? Or will you just seek the "buy in" of those folks and wear the titles of their movements as bumper stickers as you drive off and leave them in the dust.

Are you going to listen to actual teachers, parents, and students who don't agree with the policies you push?  To the black teachers who got fired en masse in New Orleans and DC? How about to the parents living in poverty who don't want their schools closed? To the students who don't want to go to schools that are run like prisons ? You gonna have those folks at your conferences? Running your organizations? Helping to make policies? You gonna refer those people to journalists instead of talking to them yourself? Are you going to power share? Are you going to step down from your positions of power? Or are you gonna wait until you're all done? Or will you stay in your bubble and just have representatives from powerless groups who are with The New Schools Teachers Project Teach Plus for America Democrats for Education Reform 50CAN Stand for Children Students First Venture Project Fund? Will you continue to buy journalism or will you let journalists do their jobs? Will you continue to buy educational research that supports your policies or will let the educational researchers do their work?

I know many of you are nice people who mean well, but when you actually become of a part of the communities you like to have so much say over and when you actually step down and aside so those folks can step in and have control over their own communities and schools, when you give up your power and embrace true democracy, then that will be true change.