August 9, 2020

It’s time for Twin Cities school reformers to admit they’ve lost their way, and the battle for better schools

If you are awake it should be easy to admit that public schools in the Twin Cities public schools have sped to Hades in a mine cart, especially if you have the unfortunate problem of not being white.

Outcomes for our kids are shockingly bad with little hope for improvement so long as the current cast of “leaders” are in charge. That includes the school boards, superintendents, teachers’ unions, and the portions of our communities who are privileged by an inequitable system.

I’ve beat this drum before. If you expect me to stop now, stop reading here.

The truth I’ll tell today is that our local school reformer team is to blame for our slide.

I know, shocking coming from me, a guy who was so tightly aligned with reformers that you might think they created me in a lab.

But, it’s true. Reformers ruined our schools.

Clarification: I don’t mean you are literally responsible for errors like signing dumb adult-centric teachers’ contracts that demand nothing substantial in terms of teacher performance or hiring superintendents that can barely eat soup without drooling.

Gosh, no. You’re better than that.

The real way reformers have shit the bed in these towns is by giving up the fight and giving in to the opposition. You got fatigued and fed up. Many of you walked off the court with your money, organization, and vigor. In doing so you let the local chapter of Diane Ravitch’s fan club saturate the market with shallow arguments about privatization, billionaires, dark money, and so on.

I blame you for allowing a mom-jean-wearing army of Save Our Schools types to overrun every Facebook group, dominate every Next Door conversation, and scare the living Jesus out of every ambitious and comfortable politician.

You retreated from the war of words and now there is no contest for the seductive narrative that demography is in fact destiny, there is very little teachers can do to cure the ills we send them in the form of broken children, and there is nothing about schools to be fixed but their funding.

To be fair, not all of you left reform headquarters. Some of you stayed, but you retreated from the hard-charging and urgent values of school reform and opted for a conciliatory “third way” whereby you give an inch to savagely self-interested anti-reformers in the naïve hopes they wouldn’t ride you like a cheap mule for a country mile.

I hate to break it to you, but they are still riding you and laughing all the way to jobs for life.

Is there anything I can say that will stop you from constantly bringing a John Denver album to a rap battle?

There is but one way to redeem yourself. It doesn’t live in a PowerPoint or a new community engagement plan or an incomprehensibly bad guide to semi-great schools or a vanilla campaign begging white people to attend nonwhite schools (without fixing leadership, staffing, curriculum, instruction, and schooling itself).

First, fire every one of your “I want prefer to be behind the scenes” staff members, and then buy yourself a spine and a bionic leg to get into this ass-kicking contest.

Game on.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: