During the early 1990s in Los Angeles, there was a significant "gang problem." Rather than try to rectify the situation simply with one method, policing, the community, the police and politicians brought together the rival gangs (we all know their names) and sat them down in a room. The ensuing truce lasted for several years and served as a major reason for the reduction of gun violence and death in South Central LA, Watts, Compton and the rest of the micro-cities in the area.
Fast forward to 2013. Rather than a gang problem (which does still exist in many urban areas) we are now plagued with an educational "gang" problem - not because of closed schools which is a blog for another day. One one side of the block we have those who advance the ideas of school choice and on the other, we have those who insist that the problems that plague public schools can be fixed if we only (and I use that word with every hint of sarcasm) "eliminate poverty" and treat the "whole child." Two gangs, both claiming the mantle of "social justice" and "reform." What's a teacher, educator, parent, social activists to do?
As noted in an earlier blog, education policy debates usually end up being simplistic rants of if you're not with us, you're against us. This belief, ironically enough, is one of the central tenants of gang culture. There is no parsing whether or not you have a blue or a red rag, you have one or the other and there is no discussion - and, unfortunately being caught in the wrong area with the wrong color has potentially fatal consequences. What colors are the two sides in the education debate wearing? Is there such a "clear" distinction between these two gangs? Further, is anyone wearing grey?
This blog and my frequent posts on FB and Twitter are not designed exclusively to upset folk or offend - although for some reason, that's quite the primary response on social media regarding me. My intent is to challenge folk to move beyond their preconceived notions, even long-standing ones, to think of a third way. Sometimes changing one's perspective or lens is difficult. It is desperately needed. In order for us as educators to advance into the Post-NCLB era, we must move beyond simple black/white, or blue/red dichotomies. Reading some of these posts online makes me sick. Seeing otherwise intelligent people try to dehumanize and dismiss people (ironically the same thing many K-12 educators claim is happening to them) simply because of; number of years served in exclusively a K-12 environment, on their side of the aisle or ballot box, or singing the same note they are means we will NEVER advance into a more positive future.
What can we agree upon? Here are three simple things:
1) Public education needs to change
2) Even if we eliminate poverty there will always be the "haves" and the "have nots."
3) Expectations matter
What are the three things that you think everyone can agree upon? Please comment.