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The Real Stand for Children

Pop History Quiz: Do you know how children ended up off the factory floor and in classrooms?

Unionized adults.

From the 1830s until the 1938 passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, organizations like the Women’s Trade Union League of New York, the New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen, the American Federation of Labor and others led the fight to end child labor and institute compulsory schooling laws. (That fight, by the way, continues.)

The reminder seems important now, especially today as Chicago teachers walk picket lines in the largest educator strike in years. For several years, organizations and individuals pushing corporate-driven education policies have repeatedly and cynically argued–directly or otherwise– that unions represent the interests of adults, not children.

But in the real world, beyond the exclusive communities and lofty offices inhabited by the special interest groups pitting families and communities against teachers, the interests of adults and children overlap more often than not. For example, the 19th and 20th Century working men and women who pushed for child labor and mandatory education laws made their point for two overlapping reasons, from their perspectives as working people who were also responsible for children: their concern over competition from smaller, cheaper laborers as well as their concern for the health, safety and well-being of those often-exploited children.

Likewise, as Chicago teachers strike today, they are doing so to promote the shared interests of the entire Chicago community. From the children who stand benefit from smaller classes, more arts programs, libraries, and social workers who can enrich their lives; to the community whose local economy would benefit from more working professionals who can pay for the things businesses sell– as well as the extra child care and other expenses many of those professionals will incur if they work a longer day; to the educators themselves, who stand to win both the fair pay and dignity they’re due for their hard work.

By contrast, the policies pushed by their opponents actually do put the interests of SOME adults over the interests of children and the broader community alike. Read More

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On Steven Brill, for #EWA2012 & #EWA12

Collecting my tweets & some other info in one place, to add balance to the discussion happening during the dinner address. As someone who recently decided to join a union BECAUSE I fight daily against the mistreatment of students & teachers in schools, I’m offended by his unchecked agenda-pushing. Full Storify after the jump. Read More

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Today in Real Reform & Innovation, 1/17/12

1/17/12: What has real reformers buzzing? Continuing battles over curriculum (Srsly, Arizona?), California’s Governor, the importance of play & more, after the jump. Read More

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Parents: before you pull the Trigger…

…know where you’re pointing the gun!

Larry Ferlazzo’s piece on the Parent Trigger yesterday is a great read on the subject, and my friend Mark Friedman wrote about it last year, as well (be sure to read the comments, too).

My own takeaways are in 140-character bites at right. As presently conceived, these laws are a means of co-opting the language of empowerment to use parents to inflict the same failed policies that virtually everyone agrees have been the undoing of No Child Left Behind. Read More

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Word Attack: “Status Quo”

status quo: “the state in which”; the existing state of affairs

The education reform discussion (or debate, depending on who’s talking) is filled with buzzwords and terms, most of which (like “accountability” and “reform”) are meant to sound positive, so that we choose to agree with the speaker. (“Well, I believe in holding people accountable for their actions, so yes, I’m for an accountability movement.”) We know that many of these fall apart under closer scrutiny, but at least there’s an attempt to win skeptics over by appealing to commonly shared values.

But some terms are designed to shame us into compliance with the speaker. “Status quo” is the perfect example of this.

People who regularly engage with school reform issues are well aware of the way powerful people have defined the discussion. If you agree with them, you’re a reformer, and if you disagree with them, you support the status quo, which is meant to suggest low achievement. So far, I’ve yet to find anyone who’s giddy about the idea of school failure or achievement gaps.

But have powerful “reformers” ever stopped to consider what the term “status quo” actually means? And in light of that definition– the existing state of affairs— who is actually defending the status quo in education? Read More