So first I just want to thank all of you who stuck around during the last session at Educon last week to extend this conversation, and to those of you who have signed on to see if we can make this happen. I thought for the most part, the conversation was valuable, and it’s left me thinking a lot this week about what we can and, perhaps, cannot do.
But I wanted to start this post with some context from a Jon Becker blog post that Chris alluded to in his session as well. It’s a quote by former NYC education head Joel Klein commenting on the “Political Education of Michelle Rhee.” He says:
This is a game about power, and I think you have a vacuum on one sideâ€¦Sheâ€™s concluded â€” and I think with some wisdom â€” that thereâ€™s really no countervailing force that is well-funded, is well-organized. What I think she wants to build is an organization that can really step up and amass political support and play hardball.
As Jon notes, Klein is right. There is no alternative narrative to the “do what we’re currently doing only better” “reform” that Rhee and her cohorts are espousing. And as much as I’d like to agree with Jon that the Educon axioms suggest an alternative narrative, I still don’t see an “elevator pitch” that articulates those ideas in sound-bitey ways that people will take a chance on. And I do mean take a chance. As natural and as logical as those axioms may seem to the attendees at Educon, I’m not sure the general public is able or willing to accept them for their own schools. I know the parents at SLA have done so, and I’m totally hoping to be convinced otherwise, but for now, it’s easier to put “Students First,” the name Rhee has wrapped her “reform” around.
That new message is the hard part, and we grappled with that during our session. In fact we tried to plan around it, and I actually think we got a decent start on it. But try as we might to trust that we’d eventually coalesce around that “new story,” it was obviously on our minds. Take a look at the ideas we added to the brain dump doc:
It needs some organization, no doubt (and if anyone wants to take a shot at that, have at it), but there are definitely some great thoughts that we’ve already amassed. We’ve also got 38 people who have committed to getting about 2,000 parents organized, and John Pederson was nice enough to put together a Facebook group that we can use, all of which leaves me hopeful that we can actually make this idea come to fruition.
In a nutshell, here are the logistical themes that we can glean already:
- There should be a consistent, formal presentation piece followed by facilitated discussion
- Part of the presentation should involve students, perhaps in helping to create a video
- Create a way for these conversations to be captured and continued…make a movement
- We want to think about a name and a brand and a marketing plan.
- We want to plan the facilitation of these events carefully and provide opportunities for organizers to connect and plan together.
- And, let me add, we’re going to need some folks to take on an organizing role around some of these specific tasks. (Don’t be shy.)
But it’s gonna come down to the message. I think what we’re going to be suggesting is a conversation around transform, not reform, a conversation that necessarily will move parents out of their comfort zones a bit to really look at how schools simply have to change to better serve our kids. But even that last statement is loaded with all sorts of assumptions that I’m not sure are fair to make. Thus, the problem.
So, time for some ideas on next steps. What’s our next move?