Friday, February 27, 2015

Politics and ESEA

As we come down to the first of many wires on the next of many rewrites of ESEA, Politico provides a nail-biting tale of House Republicans looking to make sure they have the votes, while Andy Smarick has provided a handy chart of the range of political stances, ideas, and versions of a new ESEA.

The pieces are instructive. Smarick in particular shows how the various proposals, from Lamar Alexander's to NGA to FEE to-- hmmm, I don't see anything from Secretary Duncan on here. Almost as if he's completely irrelevant to the discussion. Anyway, it's an easy to size up look at the various political positions on the ESEA rewrite. As such it is somewhat informative and entirely depressing.

Likewise, the Politico piece which approaches the rewriting of ESEA as if it's a political office deserving the same horse-race style coverage of a battle for the job of Mayor of Chicago. Also depressing?

Why depressing? Because both pieces are a reminder that the one thing that is not being discussed with any degree of fervor or intensity or even at all is the educational basis for any of these choices. Many of the policy discussions (say, the desire for an eternal onslaught of standardized testing) could be informed by actual research and facts and stuff, but they won't be. ESEA could be rewritten in an atmosphere in which lawmakers and policy writers sit quietly and listen to what actual teachers and educators and researchers (real researchers, not thinky tank un-peer non-reviewed opinion pieces) have to say.

That's not going to happen, and I'm enough of a big boy to understand that that's not how the world works when it comes to any policy. I understand we've crafted a system where expertise and knowledge are often dwarfed by money and power, and that it's hard to have any kind of political system that tries to organize representative government will tilt in that direction. I'm a grown-up. I get it. I'm not going to sit and moan about how we should be living in some non-political utopia where lions and lambs lie down together and the birds and the bees sing kumbayyah. We live in the real world, and this is part of that.

But, by God, the next time some reformster wants to complain that the opponents of Common Core and standardized testing and charter schools keep politicizing things instead of discussing educational policies on their educational merits, I'm going to refer him back to these two pieces. It's time to watch, once again, how the sausage is made, and it's not made out of educational pieces-parts in an educational sausage factory. It's political sausage made at a political sausagefest.

This is a reminder to teachers who want to stay home and say, "Well, I don't want to get my hands dirty with political stuff" that they are opting out of making the decisions that they have to live with. And it's a reminder that "Why must you make this so political?" is another way to say, "I'd like you to go back to being uninvolved and ineffective, please."


  1. "I met a girl who sang the blues / and I asked her for some happy news / but she just smiled and turned away..."

    I woke up ready to witness the pendulum coming to a strained halt on the end of its long, heavy swing. Ready to help in whatever way that I could to give it my little share of a nudge to hasten it on its return, however imperceptible.

    And then.... this. This post has almost depressed me to the point of saying "why bother?"


    But dammit, if I'm watching the sausage be made knowing full well that I'm gonna have to eat it, you can bet I'm going to redouble my efforts to toss whatever real, honest chunk I can into the machine at every opportunity. I hope everyone else does the same.

    And thanks again, Peter Greene, for being Peter Greene. Even your bleakest posts are a great source of information and inspiration.

  2. Teachers need to speak up. I don't buy the excuses of fear of retribution. Do we not have First Amendment rights?

  3. Nope. Not when you sign a 4-page, single-space, Non-Disclosure-Agreement that permits your supervisor's supervisor's supervisors to read your private (non-work) email and personal text messages on your own phones.