It has become an oft-repeated progression in the world of the public education debates. People become curious, then interested, then informed, then alarmed. Then they ask the question--
What can I do?
In some places, it's obvious. Some cities and communities are on the front lines of these battles and they need people to stand up and make noise right now, today. Parents need ton turn up at meetings. Teachers need to speak up at school. Letter writers. Sign carriers. People to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are standing up.
But what if your district is not on the front lines (yet). What can you do to stand up for public education? Here are some thoughts.
Read up on the issues. Dip into the blog list that appears on the right column of this page-- these are just some of the voices out there, but they're a pretty good assortment. If the politics or focus or tone of a particular blog doesn't grab you, keep sampling others. We are a large, literally motley crew. We are large; we contain multitudes.
Read books, too. There are several excellent out there that are great for the general reader.
There are plenty more, more added to the list every day.
Communicate and Share
Spread and share the word. Tell people what you know.
The biggest weapon the resistance to ed reform has is information. The more people learned about Common Core, the less they liked it and the harder they resisted. And while not everyone may feel comfortable trying to explain what's going on, everyone has access to other writers' explanations.
Share on twitter. Retweet. Post it on facebook. Pin it. I am always surprised at the number of people who ask if it's okay to share a blog post-- certainly you can share it. That's pretty much what all of us have in mind when we write the things. If you like it and if it speaks to you, pass it on. Share, share, share.
And don 't hesitate to communicate with the writers and commenters you see. If you hear a politician say something that you know is wrong, write or call or email them and try to help them understand how they've missed the mark (pro tip: "You idiotic lying sack of beetle dung" is not a very effective way to approach this sort of communication). Reach out. Open a dialogue. You cannot expect people to know what nobody has ever told them.
There may well be local activist and advocacy groups that you can join and support. The opt out movement has grown many branches, and other regions have the groups that ben formed to face local concerns (for instance, Nebraska has been charter free for years, but now that charter fans have drawn a target on the cornhusker state, a group has been created by supporters of public schools).
Nationally, the movement has taken many forms. Educolor can be found on line in many communities, doing the work of elevating the voices of public school advocates of color on educational equity and justice. Facebook is peppered with pro-public ed groups; if you prefer large and feisty, there's the Badass Teachers Association.
And the Network for Public Education is doing huge work these days, creating a voice that is anchored in grass roots origins, but which doesn't suffer from looking home made and amateur hour (like, say, certain blogs that individuals maintain on their lunch hour). You can become a member of NPE, and you can offer them some financial support to keep up the important advocacy for public ed. And if you want to step up that support, join and support NPEAction, the political action arm of NPE.
These may seem like small things, but they are actions that anyone can take. Reformsters are spreading their ideas through a massive money-fueled carpet bombing, co-opting of politicians, and a wide array of astroturf group. But folks on the side of the resistance have had some amazing successes fueled by nothing but determination and information. You don't have to be out on the sidewalk, holding a sign, to make a difference. Spread the word.