Sunday, December 21, 2014

Talking Distraction

Dad Gone Wild has been on a streak of extra-sharp postings lately (though it belongs on your blogroll all the time), but I wanted to highlight a particular insight hiding in the midst of his recent post about the new education tsar in Tennessee.

Tennessee is one of many states that has seen the departure of some reformster leadership. Kevin Huffman has moved on, and the governor has named Dr. Candace McQueen to fill the spot. Some observers are happy about that because they see her as more qualified than Huffman, though that is a might low bar to clear since Huffman is a lawyer with a couple of years of Teach for America under his belt-- perfect qualifications for leading a state's education program. So McQueen, who has headed a teacher prep program and supposedly taught in a classroom or two, looks like an improvement. She's being hailed as a choice with appeal to both left and right, and met with calls to be bold and mend fences.

But Dad sees some red flags, particularly in the timing. McQueen will start out just before the legislative session, which promises to feature some bills ranging from reform-unfriendly to reform-rollbacky. Of course, since she's just started at that point, as is supposed to be a Common Core expert, Dad wonders if there won't be a call to just hang on, wait, talk about things, let her work. And he offers what I consider a great insight into one reformster tactic

I’m not trying to come off as a conspiracy nut, but that is standard operating procedure for the reform crowd. They love to play upon your reasonableness and get you talking. See reasonable people believe that while you are talking, both sides are suspending activities. Thats the trap. the reform crowd talks and builds at the same time. You don’t have to look any further then East Nashville to find evidence of that. While neighborhood groups were engaged in dialog about a KIPP take over and what it would look like, KIPP was meeting with the school district, hiring a principal and recruiting in the neighborhood. So guess what, they are now ready to implement their plan despite the fact that the community still hasn’t accepted it and the band plays on.

Good call. One of the features of the political landscape for the past couple of decades is the recognition that you don't really need people to agree with you to get things done. Just keep thm talking and meanwhile, do what you want to do.

It's an insight worth remembering. Not that I think there should never be conversation. I'm a big fan of engaging with anybody who wants to talk about the issues. But listening to what reformsters have to say should never take the place of paying attention to what they are actually doing. It's like those thieves that work in teams-- one at the front door occupying you with a tale of woe while the other slips in the back and steals your stuff. Don't let it turn you into the kind of person who never opens your front door to anybody. But keep your back door locked and stay alert.

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