Thursday, July 21, 2011

Barone Comments

Speaking of how the unions/Ravitch/Blob defend the status quo and attack reformers, and how sometimes even our friends write negative things, here's DFER's Director of Federal Policy, Charles Barone, with some wise thoughts:


Even if Tough and Whitmire do have some of their facts right...


The people that want little or no change, just more public money and lower public expectations, they're pretty organized as a unit. They are members of longstanding coalitions, coordinate lobbying, sing out of the same basic songbook. And their fates are intertwined.


The reform movement is much more organic and diffuse. Those who can be counted as being on the "reform" side have come at this from many different routes. Charters and alternative certification are merely two of them. Many of us were doing what could be called reform 10-15 years ago and weren't even aware of each other.


Now we are starting to work together. But that doesn't mean we are as unified and single-minded as the establishment. Not even close. We still have to work hard to develop consensus among us.


We in the "reform movement," which is more a convenient concept than an entity, are still the insurgents. We are whistleblowers calling b.s. on things that are indefensible and trying to figure out ways to do things differently. There are some that are now establishment in their own way. But as a movement, when you factor in everyone, particularly new orgs like DFER, Stand, TNTP, EEP, Pie-Net, CAP's education unit, ConnCan/50Can, Teach Plus, even the Education Trust v.2.0, we're just getting started against those who have had decades to do things their way.


A lot of the most interesting things these and other orgs have done are still nascent. The status quo is the Bell Telephone of the 1980's. Who's the next Verizon or Sprint or T-Mobile? The next Boost, Nextel, Vonage, or Cricket? Who knows. But one things is for sure: early investors and observers did not let the early mistakes of MCI or, later, AOL, deter them from continuing to believe that things had to change and would change. Nor did they act like Bell and the upstarts were co-equals.


The fact that the edu-stablishment as an organized and cohesive unit mislead as they try to cover things up is a little different than some in the reform movement over-promising or trying to back-spin/lower expectations. And the amount of money and power the former have behind them is the elephant in the room re: the Whitmire and Tough articles. And if Ravitch speaks the exceptional truth now and then, at a conference here or there, that does not disguise the fact that in general she is incredibly, and as a rule, intellectually dishonest and disrespectful, both in public and private.


You cannot equate Ravitch speaking generalized mistruths against a whole bunch of separate orgs and efforts with those individuals who rightly call Ravitch out for saying things she knows are false. Same thing with some of the other high-profile, usual suspect, individuals.


Maybe 10 or 20 years down the line if we begin to act as a monolith it will be fair to make generalizations about "reformers". But for now, even if it may make good copy or pass muster as "balanced" journalism, in reality it's pretty ridiculous. And it overlooks the bigger picture, in which we are still by far the underdogs.


Charles Barone

Director of Federal Policy

Democrats for Education Reform

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