One of education reform’s best attributes is its sense of urgency about doing better for kids. This field is not one for the complacent.
But our earnestness can come across as antagonistic. To say “we must do better” implies something unflattering about the ways things are. Since there are lots of people responsible for the way things are, this can sometimes translate into bruised egos and nasty recriminations.
I take responsibility for being among our field’s worst offenders on this score. I am pointed to a fault.
I hope folks—even when they’re frustrated with me—know I write what I do because I detest that disadvantaged kids don’t get a fair shake. I can be an insufferable cuss, but I aspire to do it without bias—hence my heartfelt appreciation for TNTP’s referring to me as an “anti-tribalist.” I try to call them as I see them, regardless of party, ideology, organizational affiliation, or anything else.
But my directness is also attributable to my subscribing to Frederick Douglass’s view that power concedes nothing without a demand. We will never bring about the changes we need if we practice nothing but gauzy, velvet-gloved diplomacy and accommodation. To paraphrase Douglass, that has never worked and never will.
I try to leaven my scolding by also drawing attention to great people doing great stuff; this was the purpose of the “By the Company It Keeps” series.
But looking back on 2013, I probably employed the wagging finger more vigorously than the pat...