Friday, December 30, 2011
As We Approach 2012 - Scrappy Reformers are Turning the Tide
In the battle between the Goliaths of the status quo and the scrappy Davids of education reform, the tide may be slowly turning. It was Arthur Reynolds Award winner Anthony Russo, whose This Week in Education article brought new attention to the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public, but the battle lines could not be more sharply drawn.
On the one hand, you have the Evil Empire. If there is a person in public life who more closely resembles Darth Vader than Diane Ravitch I don't know who it is. She was once a promising educational expert in her own right with the Bush administration before she was drawn to the dark side of critical thinking and educating the whole child instead of regimented standards based testing and preparation.
Of course Darth Vader didn't like doing his own dirty work. That's where the army of public school teachers come in. Through their unions they fight the very changes that will save education. In fact, they've been fighting these changes so hard for so long, they've made it very hard to find any evidence that the best reforms like charter schools, merit pay, and ending last in first out benefit students.
This of course brings us to the force. With evidence mounting that the very reforms we have staked our reputations or our careers on do not work, we're left to take it on faith. Why is it that they don't work? I believe it's teacher sabotage, but it may be some other equally plausible reason. However, what we have is faith. In Star Wars, they refer to that faith as The Force. I believe that the force of education reform is equally power.
On the opposite side, are a ragtag collections of rebels. In the picture above I used Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and Eli Broad as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Hans Solo, but there are a whole lot of these underdog heroes like Rahm Emanuel as C3PO, Mike Bloomberg as Obi Wan Kenobi, and Chris Christie as Chewbacca. Despite overwhelming odds, they've fought a tough campaign against the establishment from their cobbled together resources.
Now, I said the tide was swinging towards the rebels and it is. In Star Wars, the empire was everywhere, but there would always be a number of backwater planets inhabited by scoundrels and cut throats, where rebels who sometimes had shady pasts like Han Solo could plot the rebellion. In this world, that place is Detroit. In Detroit politicians with imagination have given Emergency Manager the freedom to take on teachers and collective bargaining. The money he has saved from over inflated teacher contracts has enabled him to bring in Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson from Seattle and John Covington from Kansas City. They both have very shady pasts and they may just be the kind of rogues we need to finally take down The Empire.