Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Antidote to Money

Money has poisoned many of the conversations in this country, shaping the debates about everything from wars in foreign lands to the future of American public education. Money has an unprecedented power to control the public discussion simply by taking control of the major media (which are, after all, contained within just six corporations).

Ironically, today there is also unprecedented power for ordinary citizens to circumvent the major media. And if you're reading me, you've seen it in action.

I produce this blog with a budget of $0.00, and yet every day, there are several thousand reads on these pages. And I'm not one of the big dogs in the education conversations. Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Anthony Cody, Jose Luis Vilson, and I would go on and on but there are so many names I would break my blog-- so many people who have energized and informed the discussion of public education on a budget somewhere between slim and none.

Meanwhile, the Big Guns of Reformsterdom can whip up $12 million to start yet another in a long line of astro-turf faux activist reform-shilling websites in Education Post, claiming that they just want to renew the conversation. In just a few years, Common Core and its attendant circus of reform clown cars has gone from a sure thing and done deal to a subject so contentious and toxic that politicians who want a national profile can't back away from it fast enough (sorry, ex-next-President Jeb Bush). And the amazing part of that shift is that it represents a battle between heavily financed forces and a bunch of citizens with computers.

That's the one cool thing about this debate-- we don't have to raise money; we just have to raise awareness.

There are challenges. The folks standing up for public education represent a broad, broad, broad group, and it's no small challenge to represent every viewpoint within that wide band. While that can be a point of contention, it also, to me, represents the strength of pluralism which stands in contrast to the sometimes-BORGlike appearance of the reformsters. Add in the people who stand against the reform movement, but not necessarily in favor of public education, and you're talking about a large and varied group of viewpoints.

But the beauty and terror of the internet is that all these voices cannot be silenced. Not even as, time and time again, the major media fail to give them a voice.

The Resistance depends on us, all of us, to amplify each others' voices and to spread the word. It also depends on us to keep talking and growing and building toward newer and better understandings, even when we have disagreements, missteps, mistakes, and people in our corner that we wish would go away. It's much harder to do that than to simply pick up and pass along the latest think tank talking point. We have to keep talking, sharing, amplifying, and bringing the conversation back to what matters, even if the Big Bucks Media aren't with us. And with that in mind, here comes something special.

On Saturday, October 11, the Network for Public Education will present a live, on line event, featuring many of the prominent voices in the education debates speaking on many of the toughest issues of the field. See and hear many of the faces and voices that have not been included in education "conversations" in places like NBC's Education Nation.

This is not the change in conversation that many reformsters are asking for (though I believe that many reformster-minded folks will tune in and watch, with interest). But it will further the conversation. And it won't take $12 million dollars to make it happen, and even $120 million dollars couldn't keep it from happening. I encourage you to check out the details, make a contribution if you're so inclined, and plan to keep at least part of October 11 open to click in and watch and listen to people who aren't being paid huge amounts of money to talk about what they believe.

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