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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ron Russo's faux call for education "conversation"

During the 1950s in the USSR, people used to parse Pravda editorials for the smallest nuances of verbiage to try to determine which way the wind was about to blow. Something similar is happening with the current education debate in Delaware.

Parent and teacher outcries at RCCSD and CSD board meetings; parent comments at the IEP Task Force; the willingness of the DE PTA even to float a survey about test opt-outs; and the mildly worded letter by DSEA supporting its upstate locals represent a groundswell "push back" against corporatist education reform in our state that is unprecedented over the last decade.

Ron Russo's op-ed in today's WNJ, combined with Secretary Mark Murphy's "charm offensive" of the past week, can be read as an indicator of just where the self-appointed intelligentsia intend to take the process now.

All of a sudden, with the great unwashed of parents, teachers, and (now) district administrators, starting to rethink and rebel, the State has decided that its actions in designating "priority" schools and handing the districts a "sign by September 30 or we'll close your schools" MOU wasn't really about a State takeover.

No, now it seems (quite retroactively), it was all about having a "conversation":

Russo: "It is apparent from recent newspaper articles that various groups and individuals have differences of opinion on how to improve public schools. The good news is they share the same common goal – to provide every Delaware student with the best possible education.

"If you accept the frequently stated premises that, 'One size doesn’t fit all' and 'You can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to education,' then the presence of multiple solutions is understandable and not necessarily adversarial. It should provide fertile ground for intense conversations."

Please understand that this is crap, and that neither Mr. Russo (whose political-educational rehabilitation depends heavily on his willingness to parrot the party line when so ordered) nor Secretary Murphy (who can't keep straight in his many interviews whether the six priority schools are the lowest performing schools in DE or not) intends anything like an honest conversation.

They intend to derail the whole process into another series of "stakeholder"-driven "conversations" in which they will re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic while assuring all the passengers that there are plenty of lifeboats.

The use of "stakeholders" is the elitist attempt to stave off any real hint of unruly populism, whether it derives from rowdy parents or unrepentant unionized teachers. Just as "public comment" is a ghetto into which the leaders confine the ideas (that they're not really listening to) of those who--if they mattered--would be sitting at the adults' table, confining the conversation to "stakeholders" is a way of limiting the damage.

The problem, of course, is that those uppity parents and teachers have broken out of the blogging and social media world and gotten themselves footholds in the unions, in the PTA, and even among our legislators, so now they have to be convinced to accept the idea of "being at the table" as their reward.

Notice, however, that "being at the table" (as DSEA has hopefully finally discovered) is too often a synonym for "being ON the table" (as in "dinner") and is the last ditch effort of the corporate elites to keep control of the "conversation."

We need to resist any acceptance of their ground rules for dialogue.

Instead, let's invite them outside where the common people are having a picnic; eating and drinking too much; and letting their kids run around (possibly not always even wearing their bicycle helmets or knee pads).

In other words: don't let them talk you into believing that success is falling for the idea that they're really listening to what you think.

After November 4 they'll go back to doing whatever the hell they please.

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