There are many ways, says Deb. She gives two examples of vehicles for starting and re-framing the national discussion around education, a discussion that so far, both political parties have been trying to avoid. The Democrats appear caught between their DFER hedge-fund reform wing on one side and the two large teacher unions with their millions of voting members on the other. The Republicans seem to have only only two points in their platform, cut taxes and bust the unions.
Deb, who is an elected member of the Save Our Schools (SOS) national steering committee offers this as her first example:
SOS (Save Our Schools) is holding a "People's Convention" Aug. 3-5 at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C. Our plan? To come together around a small list of actionable planks—ones we wish the two political party conventions would adopt. We're not pretending they will, but we are also not claiming they couldn't. Our purpose: To begin to outline what the "other way" might involve if we turned away from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, our standardized testing obsession and, above all, the gradual privatization of the American public education experiment.Her second example is a Manifesto drafted by members of the North Dakota Study Group. Writes Deb:
Started in 1972 by Vito Perrone, the NDSG has met every year since. Brenda Engel, a retired Lesley College faculty member, was there at the start. She volunteered to put together a draft manifesto representing our priorities. After lots of back and forth, it is now available for public comment:In recent weeks several local organizations, including the Chicago-based group of academics and researchers called CReATE, a group of 1460 N.Y. principals, and the March 30th Open Letter to the New York State Regents from New York State Professors Against High Stakes Testing, have all issued similar statements critical of current education policies. Most focus on opposition to the misuse of testing in school and teacher evaluation. Others hit at corporate reform policies of privatization of public schools and the erosion of public decision making, exemplified by the attack on union rights, vouchers and charter schools, and the re-segregation of public schools.
As the lead paragraph of the NDSG Manifesto describes it:
Many of our country's enduring dilemmas are the products of inequalities in power and wealth created by social class, race, culture, and sexism. Challenges exist inside and outside the education system. Although the society has made visible historic progress on many fronts, our nation's most pressing educational problem remains the opportunity gap between the children of the haves and those of the have-nots; this gap has grown with the mounting social inequality of the last 40 years.With all that said and written, now comes the really difficult part. How can we begin to unite this locally-based and fragmented movement around some of these basic, common, democratic ideals and images of schooling? And how can we use whatever interest is generated by the upcoming national elections to create new possibilities for change?
More on this to come.