- Mismatched: Your Brain Under Stress is a Must-Watch Documentary for Educators - May 7, 2021
- The Experiential Illiterates - February 13, 2014
- Fordham and Hess Temporarily Acknowledge that Reformers Can't Have it Both Ways - January 23, 2014
- Disproportionate Evaluative Rigor and The Three Laws of Data - January 14, 2014
- Teaching: The Card Game - January 10, 2014
- The Tyranny of the Datum - January 6, 2014
- Ed Reform's Atari Problem - January 4, 2014
- Five New Years Resolutions for Public Education Supporters - December 31, 2013
- The Wizards of Ed- The Conundrum of Education - December 30, 2013
- The Exhaustion of the American Teacher - December 26, 2013
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If you watch the awesome YouTube video of Dan Pink’s presentation of the motivational theory espoused his book Drive, you’ll understand something thrilling: that when people are intrinsically motivated, they will do big, even risky, things for no pay.
I understand that because I’ve spent the past two years speaking out and writing about the harms I see in education reform, and I’ve done it at what I perceive to be pretty substantial career risk, and I’ve done it for no pay.
Yesterday, I got sunburned in February, and so did about 10,000 other education supporters. From my perspective up there on the stage, there were fewer than the 13,000 who showed up in 2011 for the Save Texas Schools march, but there were far more than the 5,000 that showed up in 2012. My guess is 10,000. I read one commenter who watched from his balcony and guesstimated 600, but it was evident from his tone that he was no fan of teachers or public schools, so I think he was low-balling it on purpose.
At any rate, it was far more than the reported 24 people (not counting media) who showed up for the Texas Public Policy Foundation pro-vouchers rally on the other side of the building.
As Diane Ravitch often says: they have the money, but we have the people. Now if we can just get our people to call their legislators, vote in a bloc, and write tons of editorials, we’ll see a quick change. (It’s already happening.)
Anyway, so this is the thing that should thrill those of us wanting public education to survive the current onslaught of free market reform (and the thing that should scare those who want to pilfer education funding for their profitable enterprises): the speakers and the marchers and the organizers for this event aren’t in it for the money.
Why are they marching? Our critics say it’s because we belong to a union. I don’t. I was a member of ATPE back when I taught, but I knew I could never strike and we didn’t bargain. I got legal liability insurance and a newsletter for my dues. Today I belong to TASA. If you want to call that a union just because it sounds scary, go ahead. It’s actually more like an industry association, if you ask me.
Anyway, so some want to report that we organize and fight because we’re looking out for the interests of adults. That we hate kids and love ourselves.
I want to note that the people who say this are urging monies to be freed up and sent to…adults who operate educational enterprises. Ben Chavis, for example, is one of the selfless heroes riding in to save the day from these “adult-centered” teachers.
What a crock. The moms with their kids holding signs in yesterday’s February sun–and because of the way I was sitting, only half my face is sunburned, by the way–they aren’t marching because of money. They are marching because they have seen what the testing-and-labeling-and-privatizing movement has done to their children’s education.
All you P.T. Barnum school reform barkers need to remember this–you can fool some of the people some of the time.
So things in Texas didn’t begin to change really massively when people like me were doing the agitating. I have too much self-interest as an employee. But when the non-educators began to speak up, write, and organize, the tide began to turn quickly.
One of the fastest-growing and most impressively action-oriented of the many, many groups now actively defending public education in Texas and pushing back hard against the astroturf movement to steal our schools is Texas Kids Can’t Wait. The membership of Texas Kids Can’t Wait has exploded by over 800% in just the past year.
Texas Kids Can’t Wait was founded by two ladies from Waco, Texas, neither of them educators, one a Republican and one a Democrat, but both sharing an appreciation for their local public schools. One reason for their organizing is the fact that Waco schools are on the low end of Texas’s infamously-inequitable Target Revenue system.
Texas Kids Can’t Wait is the story of a group of people who educated themselves about an issue that was affecting their community–unfair funding–and doing something about it. They began by unleashing the most potent weapon they had: information. Most Texans don’t realize their schools are funded unevenly. Most parents would expect their children would get the same amount of funding as children elsewhere in the state. Texas Kids Can’t Wait made it their mission to inform citizens about the inequity that was in many cases–unless you were lucky enough to live in the right zip codes–short-changing their children.
The founders and membership of Texas Kids Can’t Wait have been tireless advocates for schools. They have reached out to a number of other organizations and have traveled all over the state. They have actively shared information and headlines and updates about school finance and activity in the Texas legislature with their rapidly-expanding membership base. They are active in social media and maintain an up-to-date webpage.
Texas Kids Can’t Wait has been able to work side-by-side with allied organizations. In fact, the number of organizations and the collaboration among them on the pro-public education side in Texas right now is impressive for its variety and the ability of this disparate groups to come together and push for change. I mentioned many of these groups in a prior posting, but I left out some that were out in force at the Save Texas Schools rally yesterday, and I want to mention at least a couple of them: Texas ParentPAC is a political action committee that actively supports pro-public ed candidates for office in Texas, and Teach the Vote is a campaign to get teachers to the polls.
Education activists in other states would do well to learn from groups like Texas Kids Can’t Wait. Their recipe for success, from my perspective:
1. Knowledge, and a willingness to share it all over the state
2. Enthusiasm and tireless sharing of the message
3. Relentless focus on growing the numbers in the group
4. Fearlessness in confronting lies and misinformation
5. Willingness to communicate directly and fearlessly with lawmakers
That last one is important. Texas is a deep-red state, but many who value education as a public good come from a Democratic background. Public education support, however, runs across party lines. Just as education reform can get Jeb Bush and Barack Obama to smooch at the privatization altar, the defense of a traditional public education can get rural Republicans to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the front lines, and when we are together defending our children and their schools, these lines won’t break.
I often wonder if the Texas GOP understands what this fascination with vouchers and charters is doing with their religious, rural base. I can’t tell you how many fellow educators I’ve heard say, “Well, I’ve always considered myself a Republican, but…” But that’s a topic for a future post.
Why do the ladies of Texas Kids Can’t Wait work so hard? Dan Pink knows why: it’s because they are true believers in the virtues of public education. And the fact is, polls show that most Texans and most Americans still believe in the promise of public education. Despite the decades-long effort to demonize teachers and promote the disingenuous notion that American schools are failing (American NAEP scores are at their highest point, ever)–despite a concentrated attack on public education dating back to 1983, and despite billions invested in privatization cheerleading–Americans still support their public schools.
And when those Americans are educated by savvy, tireless groups like Texas Kids Can’t Wait, this battle will be over, and our kids will be the winners.
Thanks, Texas Kids Can’t Wait.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]