Friday, November 7, 2008

At the Fall Forum

I'm down here in DEMOCRATIC North Carolina (can you believe it?), in Charlotte, to be exact, at the annual Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. I try to come to the Fall Forum every year, to touch base with old friends and hear some good speeches and presentations. But this is the smallest turnout ever--under 1,000 it looks like.

Why? Look no further than the growing economic crisis, making it impossible for many teachers to travel to professional meetings or professional development sights. Budget cuts have led to travel bans on teachers, students and administrators. Progressive school reform organizations like CES, will have to find new ways to get their message out, raise funds, and organize themselves and their base.

Many will close shop and/or go to work directly for the power philanthropists--Gates, Broad, Walton, etc... Others will restrict themselves to local work, leaving the national field to the few large, well-capitalized, professional development companies who turn teachers into delivery clerks.


Nice opening event last night with a student choral group from a local high school doing classical pieces in Italian and then closing with a moving gospel rendition of "I've been in the storm so long." Seeing this diverse group of singers brought me back in time to 1968, the last time I visited Charlotte, when the very idea of black and white North Carolina students attending high school and singing together would have been dangerous and subversive.

The keynote was delivered by the great Chicano writer/poet/community activist Luis Rodriguez ("Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.") who held himself up as a living example of why we cannot write off any kids.

I led a discussion this morning on "Public school reform meets the ownership society" and did a book signing. I'll be on another panel tomorrow morning with Deb Meier and Ann Cook, discussing the impact of mayoral control of big city school districts.

On the plane from Detroit, I'm reading my complimentary copy of the Financial Times. The headline on the election story gets me all teary-eyed: "Death knell for 'Southern Strategy.'"
Known as the “southern strategy”, the covert racial appeal to alienated working-class whites helped to deliver seven out of the last 10 presidential elections to Republicans. On Tuesday night, Barack Obama’s emphatic victory brought the southern strategy to a close – and with it may also have ended his party’s torturous 40-year struggle to win back the loyalty of the US mainstream.


  1. Mr. Klonsky,
    it was great to meet you and will begin the journey of deciphering many of the points you brought up.

    Oddly enough, I just finished viewing "American Blackout." While I am celebrating Obama's victory, there is still much work to be done.

    I hope to keep in touch,


  2. Aaron,
    I enjoyed meeting you too. Thanks for coming to our presentation at the Fall Forum. I haven't seen "American Blackout." Sounds interesting.


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