Education Nation

The last week has been a week of education dialogue on MSNBC’s Education Nation. On Sunday, several programs throughout the day promoted conversation about the current state of public education in the US. Meet the Press featured Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and AFT President Randi Weingarten among others. I found myself frustrated early in this conversation as it seems that when we discuss education reform in the public forum we only discuss poor, urban districts. I’m not insinuating that these districts are in great need for reform, but I do feel stress over the lack of discussion about rural poor. My teaching experience in rural America lasted a short six months, but in that time I learned more than I could have imagined about life in true rural communities. But, I digress…

The second education program on Sunday was the “Teacher Town Hall”. It was a whirlwind two hours of teachers from public and public charter schools from across the country. It was a two hour rehashing of the same topics: tenure, union contracts, teacher training, and charter vs. traditional public. What made it the whirlwind was the multitasking experience of following the #educationnation twitter conversation during the entire town hall. (The msnbc chat function was terrible and couldn’t support the volume by any means; they should have partnered with Twitter!) It was so interesting to see the commiseration, suggestions, etc. put forth by my PLN and non-PLN colleagues. The biggest interesting dichotomy of the day was the response to a young teacher’s comment against tenure. It truly became a generational divide. (For the record, as a teacher without tenure, I’m ambivalent) This was a dizzying experience and I’m still processing all I took in during the event.

As the week has progressed, each morning my fab politics show, Morning Joe, has brought on guests to discuss the same topics. Many of these topics revolve around the opening of the documentary, Waiting for Superman. I have not seen this film as of yet, but I feel as if I have based on the plethora of conversations about it recently. I have found myself frustrated at the circular nature of the discussions. The constant chatter of how things “should be” with the same demonstrations of how it can be such as Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone or KIPP etc. These are all great examples, but they are not new to anyone following ed reform. The prattle was becoming obnoxious and the elephant in the room was pushing in every direction to be let out of the gate.

And finally this morning, it was let out. And the charge was led by none other than President Barack Obama. Who had the courage to say what so many teachers want to say but feel we can’t…that parents matter. We can no longer afford as a nation to put the entire onus on the fate of a child in the hands of a teacher.

We can go round and round in think tank brainiac discussions but if we don’t think about our children in a truly holistic way, what shall become of them?? If we want to be an Education Nation, it will take more than new union contracts, smaller class size, and more tests.

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