Aiming for an Educational Revolution without Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

I’ve been seeing a lot of Internet traffic among teachers groups over the last couple of days concerning AFT’s endorsement of Hilary Clinton and various groups support for the re-authorization of ESEA (now known in the Senate as the Every Child Achieves Act or ECAA). Specifically, the folks I am reading prefer Bernie Sanders over Clinton, as they believe he is more education friendly (I do too!) and are disappointed that the ECAA still includes mandatory annual testing (albeit with the federal uses of test scores curtailed). United Opt Out has gone as far as suggesting the folks not support passage of the ECAA.

Here is where we get ourselves into trouble if we let the perfect become the enemy of the good. It still burns me that my democratic friends who maintained that Al Gore was no different from George W. Bush and stuck with Ralph Nader to the bitter end may have helped to deliver us two wars and No Child Left Behind. So here is the dilemma; Personally, I prefer Bernie’s politics (particular in terms of education) just as I prefer an end to all mandated testing. At the same time, I do believe that Hilary Clinton would be better for education and the country than any of the current crop of Republican candidates (imagine Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum or Donald Trump as education presidents!) and I believe the ECAA would go a long way to improve the lives of students and teachers even if it does still include annual or grade span testing.

So the real problem here is how to do both at the same time. We certainly want to keep pushing for the best we can get. But the nature of democracy is that we rarely get everything we want. It seems to me that we can’t descend into name-calling or a “holier than thou” attitude about our positions, as that might undermine a candidate or a position that we might actually prefer over the other alternatives later. Opposing ECAA leaves us with the current NCLB bill and the testing it mandates. The current bill in the senate is probably the best we can get (and by the way Bernie Sanders voted for it in committee).

So we need to keep pushing for what we think is best . . . a particular candidate or a change in the law with a vision of succeeding. If we don’t keep working for a revolution in our political and education systems they will never happen. However, even when we don’t succeed in the short term, our efforts change the discourse and get important issues into the public consciousness.

For me even when we don’t achieve a “revolution” in the short term in the current case it still easy to see what would be “better” if not perfect. Do we prefer Hilary or Scott Walker or Donald Trump (or any of the Republicans)? Do we prefer the new ECAA (with less Federal interference, uses of testing etc.) vs. the old NCLB? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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3 Responses to “Aiming for an Educational Revolution without Shooting Ourselves in the Foot”

  1. maryanne2121 Says:

    The real issue, I think, is that there was no need to endorse this early. AFT did the same thing in the 2008 election – endorsed Hillary in October of 2007, and had to eat it when Obama won the nomination. While I, too, am a Bernie supporter, I think both candidates needed to be asked more directly about their stance on the private money that now drives the education agenda, as well as testing, VAM, charters, and all the rest. This just feels so premature, and it takes away the opportunity to demand more from the candidates. I probably agree with you on ECAA – I hope it’s a step in the right direction at least. If we could get a president who appoints a Sec. of Ed. who will NOT promote the privatization of education, the rest might fall into place a little better.

    Like

  2. Chris E-S Says:

    Agreed.

    Like

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