There is one thing that I learned from my years of political activism. Advocacy is not so much getting people to agree with you as it is changing the conversation.
That is why I think the Corporate Educational Reformers hold such a tight rein on what is discussed in the public sphere. If you read the Boston Globe you would think that lifting the charter cap is a no brainer. Extended Learning Time is a no brainer. Children need to be measured by tests. Teachers need to be held accountable to tests.
And it’s frustrating if you try and change the conversation.
Part of that is because you are working against a narrative. And it is a narrative that has dominated the conversation for the last 30 years. It goes like this:
Urban schools are in crises.
Bad Teachers are the reason why they are in crisis.
The Teachers Union protects bad teachers.
To fix schools you need to break the Teachers Union.
But what of this isn’t true. What if, in fact, BPS is one of the best urban schools in the country?
Because if it was poverty that was causing the achievement gap then everything that US has been doing from standardized testing, charter schools and ELT are really just gimmicks.
In Finland, the children take no standardized tests. The school days are shorter. There are no private schools. And teachers are 100% unionized.
And they test better than any other kids in the world.
What do they have? Children have an hour for recess. The kids have access to free meals, health care, mental health services and individualized career counseling.
But Finland isn’t America, you say. And your right. It is evident to me there are differences. Finland has decided as a country to prioritize child welfare and we have not.
If we want to close the achievement gap we have to change our priorities. And that would mean changing the conversation.
Read a really interesting article on Finland’s amazing school system: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/