Education Nation Summit Today

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I signed up to participate in today’s Education Nation Teacher Summit, did you? (It’s at noon, est) And now I might have a family conflict — a birthday party for my youngest son that I may or may not need to stay for — and I just listened to a video message from NBC anchor Brian Williams explaining that the ideas of the teachers will be brought forth to the upcoming Education Summit that NBC is hosting.

I should hope so, because it does feel as if teachers are getting the short end of the rope with all of the media coverage around education. The New Yorker had a great piece by Nicholas Leamann called ‘Schoolwork‘ that argues that schools are improving and students are learning more than ever before, but that you would never know it by reading newspapers and watching television news. Leamnn goes on to note that there are still troubles in urban districts that are the result of socio-economic-political reasons but that to make grand statements about the failure of education is misguided.

This is a great quote from that piece:

Education is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; the creation of the world’s first system of universal public education—from kindergarten through high school—and of mass higher education is one of the great achievements of American democracy. It embodies a faith in the capabilities of ordinary people that the Founders simply didn’t have.

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And my friend, Bill Ferriter, wrote a powerful piece in response to Oprah, NBC and others in the recent media blitz that seems to target public school teachers. Bill vents some anger and makes the point that education reform has consistently not done what it has promised to do, and the fingers keep getting pointed to us, the classroom teachers.

Bill write:

Instead, you’re content to patronize the American schoolteacher. You’ll celebrate the mythology well enough—praising the matronly, apple-wielding women who you learned from—and then ignore the reality that your unwillingness to believe that we might just know something about how to save our schools has destroyed any chance that our schools will be saved.

I’ll try to participate today, if I can, although I wonder about how one voice might affect the nation. But perhaps, as we tell our own kids, one voice added to more voices creates a call for action, and that means that teachers (and not just our unions) need to be involved more deeply in changes that are to take place in how we teach and what we teach.

You know, I was reading this short piece by Roald Dahl about how he went about writing stories, and creating characters. He was writing this piece to kid readers. But he made clear that every narrative needs a villain, and the more you can cast that character as the one to despise, the better, because then when that villain gets its due, you can cheer. I worry that we teachers are being cast as the villains here in this emerging national narrative. We may not all be heroes, but we’re not villains either, and it is the kids who get lost in this kind of debate, I fear.

Peace (in making change),

One Comment
  1. One of the teachers selected for the NY group is a teacher from the inner city high school where I taught for 21 years, the last 5 beside her as a part of a team of teachers. I know she will speak up for teachers.

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