Can the School Reform Wars Be Scaled Down?
As 2016 comes to a close, we must think deeply and communicate sincerely about the lessons to be learned from the election of Donald Trump. During the holidays, I forbade myself from writing on policy so I wouldn’t be distracted by specific policy issues, as opposed to contemplating the big picture questions about the causes, the effects, and the alternatives to Trumpism.
I didn’t go cold turkey in forsaking the analysis of school improvement issues, however. When the craving became irresistible, I exchanged emails with neoliberal and conservative school reformers. I proposed that regardless of our positions on test-driven, competition-driven reforms, we should put them on the backburner, unite, and oppose the racism, sexism, and xenophobia that Trump proclaims. The Trump presidency is fundamentally different than even that of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, or George W. Bush. Education activists certainly shouldn’t collaborate with such an administration in order to expand charters or advance any other specific agendas.
Neither should educators take advantage of the split between conservative and neoliberal reformers if it undermines an opportunity for us to collaboratively fight Trump’s hate-filled persona and irresponsible and dangerous policies on immigration, the climate, civil rights, and foreign policy. (If reformers continue to treat teachers as the enemy, however, then our educational civil war will continue to undermine progressive alternatives.) Although the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Rick Hess may not agree with much of my proposal, I’m pleased that the conservative Hess is responsive to the call for a new conversation.
Hess’ “Seven Reflections on School Reform in 2017” begins with advice to his allies, “Keep an eye out for thought bubbles. It’s easy to talk only to people who think like you do.” He warns top-down school reformers to “steer clear of words that have been stripped of meaning,” such as “best practices,” “differentiation,” “21st century skills,” “rigor,” and “accountability.” The inimitable Hess observes:
Most of the time, it’s not clear what any of these placeholders really mean. They’re often just a way to skip past complicated questions. The problem is that mushy Can the School Reform Wars Be Scaled Down? | The Huffington Post - Linkis.com: