Friday, December 30, 2011

Are we winning the online debate over education reform? and an invitation to join the twitter party

There's been a lots of intense tweeting and blogging over last two days about Alexander Russo's post in which he called the good guys, including those of us on the NYC Education list serv and PAA (Parents Across America) "reform critics" and described us as "Goliaths" beating the billionaire "Davids"  in the online debate over education reform. Here’s an excerpt from the post, entitled: "Media: Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now).":
As anyone who reads education sites or goes on Twitter knows, "reform critics" -- they're still working on a better term to describe their views -- have a slew of current teachers and veterans out there talking about their classroom experiences and opinions nearly every day.  Nancy Flanagan, TeacherKen, Anthony Cody, and John Thompson to name just a few. It's not just that they're out there shouting randomly into the wind, either.  At least some of them seem to be coordinated behind the scenes by SOS or PAA or Leonie's listserv, bird-dogging individual sites -- Caroline Grannan seems to have been (self-)assigned to this site -- and converging on a blog post or Twitter comment (as happened to me last week when I first posted on this topic).  If past experience is any guideline, the comments here and Twitter RTs will come from them.
I commented on Russo’s blog that he should not call us "reform critics" but "real reformers" or the 99%.  Clearly, many teachers, parents, and education advocates have been working for better schools longer than the hedge fund operators, oligarchs and other members of the corporate reform crowd. And because we are personally invested in improving public schools, we are determined to outlast all the Astroturf groups financed by Billionaire Boys Club of Gates, Broad, Bloomberg, the Koch brothers and the Walton family, and all others whose hobby it is to privatize and corporatize public education. 

Yet Russo's acknowledgement that we are winning in the online sphere was welcome news to me, in any case.  Others, including some of those mentioned above, had more critical reactions.

Others have joined in, including Miss Katie:  Tides a Turnin' ; Mike Klonsky: A biblical school reform metaphor and Schools Matter: Russo Off by 4 Months (UPDATED).
If those of us who are working for positive, progressive education reform are indeed winning the online debate, it's not necessarily because we are smarter or better organized.  It may be because the corporate reformers & the BBC don't bother to engage in real discussion, since they can use their cold hard cash to impose their damaging policies without any public buy-in, and without any backing in the research. The more secretive their maneuvers, the better.  
See what happened, for example,  when Jonah Edelman spoke frankly at the Aspen Conference about how Stand for Children had won SB7, Illinois legislation eroding teacher rights, by hiring the best lobbyists and donating to certain legislators.  I thought it was admirable that he was honest about his methods, but because of the public uproar, he was forced  to  apologize.  
I’m sure the Gates Foundation would never want to do anything as humiliating as apologize. Better to work behind the scenes if you're going to fund secretive, right-wing organizations like ALEC and form  limited corporations, operated by Murdoch's Wireless Generation, to collect confidential student and teacher data.
Here is what Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch ), early adopter of Twitter, emailed me about Russo's blog: 
“"We need to say, again and again, that they may have money and hold the reins of power (for now), but their ideas are failing. And now the public is getting it. And the louder we are, in whatever forums open to us, the more the mask will fall away, and the public will understand that the corporate reformers have hijacked the language of reform to protect the privileges and power of the 1% and we are reaching the public because we are many and they are few."

Whether we have been effective in using social media, which after all, is free, everyone who is a real education policy junkie should join Twitter.  You can follow the "debate" and help us "reform critics" be even more annoying to the people at the Gates Foundation (@gatesed), Mayor Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) and his assorted minions, including Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson (@howiewolf) , by replying to their inane tweets, providing our critique on their policies, and sometimes even getting responses.  Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) is also very active and gets into extended debates on twitter. Join the party by signing sign up at  

Thanks for making NYC Ed list famous, and have a Happy New Year!

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