Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Uplift Checklist For a Dispiriting Day

Honestly, my expectations are always so low that it's hard to really disappoint me, and this day was no exception. Defeating DeVos depended on finding a GOP senator who was willing to separate himself from his senate pack and also piss off a President known for his unreasoning grudgeholding rage in the first days of a new administration whose main goal seems to be sorting the people of the world into "kindling" and "marshamallows." A 24-hour parade of speechifying Democrats wasn't going to shake that imaginary GOPster loose; today went down pretty much as I expected.

Still, many of my colleagues are pretty bummed. "This just seems so bad. So just really so bad. What do we hold onto." So I'm going to try to rein in my usual bloviation and just give you a list. This. This is why you don't have to totally despair.

* We have company. A whole lot of company. When we go off on our next rant about the assault on public education, a whole lot of people will no longer look at us like we're nuts. We have company, and that means we have help.

* The Trump-DeVos administration means that our national unions no longer need to play nice in hopes that they'll get a seat at the table. No more of this, "Shhh. Try to be polite" shit that we had when Arne Duncan was in office. These guys aren't Democrats, and the union doesn't have to pretend to get along.

* The reformy coalition is all splintery. Pretend reform Democrats can no longer pretend that their preferred policies are not conservative orthodoxy. The in fighting may or may not help, but it will at least be entertaining.

* Despite the depictions of her as clueless, DeVos is better known as a hard-nosed political street fighter. Between her ignorance and her bare-knuckles gracelessness, we will not have to try to read the nuances to divine her goals and intent.

* We already know the territory. Five, six, ten years ago, when things started to unfold, lots of folks spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was really going on, if they saw what they thought they saw, if people in power really were saying crazy shit and trying to do crazy things. Some of us napped through a lot of that, eventually startled and surprised to see that a bunch of people really did want toi gut public education like a prize trout. Now, the element of surprise is gone. We know the face of the other army, and we have folks watching every single road into the territory. No surprises. We're ready.

* The resistance has flexed its muscle. Granted, I'm far from the heart of the action, but my sense is not of widespread helplessness ("My God. We gave it our all and we lost. It's no use") Instead, what I'm hearing is a feisty energy (Damn! We're a lot stronger than I thought!")

* The real action, the meaningful action, the action that counts is right where it has always been-- in our classrooms, with our students. Folks can throw shade all day, but we work in the heart of the sun.

* Love really does beat the rest of that crap. You can already see, just ten days in, the Trump administration splintering and churning up so much bile in its own barrel that it keeps spitting it up. It's ugly and awful and gut-wrenching and not a good look on anyone-- but it is also a sign that this administration is literally sick, sick with an illness that makes it violent and dangerous, but also weak and doomed sooner or later to fall. Love, friends, and don't get any of that shit on you. The space in your head belongs to the people you love; don't throw them out just to make room for unworthy tenants.

Finally, from my own personal vantage point-- just because you can't clearly see the way forward doesn't mean it's not there. You listen, you wait, you watch, and you move forward with as much clarity and purpose as you can, and you find the way. Look, I never in a gazillion years would have predicted where I would be today, yet here I am. Sometimes the struggle just finds you, comes to you and you rise up to meet it.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a breath. Get some rest. We can do this.


  1. In the unlikely event of her defeat, I was under no illusions that her replacement would be significantly different. Perhaps it takes a train wreck like DeVos for folks to realize that education policy has been on the wrong track for decades.

  2. At least with DeVos we know what we are getting. My concern now (and what has been all along) is that there are now a group of Senators looking to dismantle USDE by 2018. I believe this was the plan all along and Heavens to Betsy is just the person to make that happen. Sure , I would like more state control of education, but the ideals of USDE will be lost....and that is scary. I want to know that there is some agency watching over the states to make sure they allocate funds correctly and equitably and that scholarship dollars are being handled appropriately. Children with disabilities will be the most affected by this and they already have a more difficult life. These are very scary times.

  3. Peter, I want to thank you for the blog. It has been a source of calm in the midst of these ludicrous times. I had composed a list in my own mind of why I think the DeVos thing isn't entirely terrible. First on the list: federal level Democrats suddenly care about public education again! As you said, now the sides are clearly going to be chosen. (For example, I saw Petrilli's comments in the Detroit Free Press and he's already decided to suck up to the empress.)

    Since I live in Michigan, I've already seen the polarization of the DeVos tactics. It's led a lot of people to learn more about education policy. I think the nation might be waking up to this threat to a long-standing and crucial institution.

  4. I watch morning joe each day on msnbc. It is a good show. But 1 hour, 1 minute into the show today, they began talking about education. I already knew how clueless Joe was, but there were five people on the panel, and it was the most disgraceful so-called discussion of education I have ever seen on a non propaganda network television show. It is indescribable, and must be viewed to be believed. (it lasts only 4 or 5 minutes). Harold Ford of the University of Michigan wound it up praising the heroism of Arne Duncan. He has someone on the faculty at U.M. capable whose style would not be to slice his head off and present it on a plate—-lucky for him. I hope you watch it, and present it. I will continue to watch Morning Joe…..I have learned to live with the reality of how stupid Joe is regarding public education , a subject they seldom discuss. Good production decision.

  5. Well said, Peter. I always appreciate both your feistiness and your optimism.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts - as usual. I plan to save this post to refer to as we move forward. As you suggest, I don't expect any retraction from the Common Core crap - since the states spent so much money rewriting standards, pushing CC down out throats, semi-training us, and paying for BS tests based on the standards. Perhaps there will be something good that comes out of this (and thank you for the Uplift Checklist!), but at this point, I don't know where it will be. Maybe I can be left alone for a couple of years while things get going and just get to teach my kids until they cut my position due to lack of funds. (Think we can stretch that out for 4 more years when I'm expecting to retire?)

  7. Yes. Love is stronger than hate. Thank you for your wisdom, your persistence, your kindness and your humor. Every day. You rock, big time!