DeWitt, who has been on the other end of SED anger himself (he got a pushback from an SED flack when he wrote a blog post pointing out that NYSED Commissioner John King sends his kids to a Montessori school where they are safe from the SED education reform agenda), says that it is a shame that the crowd treated Commissioner King with disrespect, but the anger didn't come from nowhere:
Anyone in a leadership position knows that leadership is hard. If you have ever been on the receiving end of name calling and angry statements from a crowd, you know it doesn't feel good and wish that people would be civil. Angry crowds don't happen without reason, at least when it comes to education. Something builds to make someone angry enough to show up to a meeting and yell.Attendees in each crowd where Commissioner King spoke were not civil. It's sad that in so many places in our society we have shut down any chance to talk. We would never allow this of children in our schools but it is happening too frequently with adults. But people are angry and the town hall meetings were a place they could express that anger...although Commissioner King did not have that in his plan....This eruption of anger at town hall meetings sponsored by the NY State PTA could have been avoided. King sees this situation very different than people who have been trying to share their opinions with him. Parents, teachers and students are being pushed and prodded by special interests (i.e. Pearson, Amplify, inBloom, etc) but Commissioner King seems to ignore that. He only seems to see the special interests that are fighting him, not the ones that stand behind him.
In truth, the only way to get the message across to education reformers these days seems to be through expressions of anger and incivility.
Education reformers of all stripes - from the funders like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg to the functionaries carrying out their plans like Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, and John King - do not care at all what the public thinks about their reforms or their plans.
The education reform movement has done its best to impose their agenda in secret, with little public debate, has brooked little dissent when parents or teachers have complained that some of that agenda is not only not working but is damaging to students, teachers and schools, and is in the end more interested in public relations events to sell their agenda than opportunities for true dialogue with parents and teachers.
When Arne Duncan was booed at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Francisco, an education researcher felt the need to apologize for the incivilty of the crowd.
But as Diane Ravitch noted about the circumstance:
Booing is the behavior of the powerless. Educators are angry–and Jennings knows this–because of the top-down, authoritarian way in which Duncan has imposed policies that are bad for children, ruinous for teachers, and harmful to the quality of education. Jennings also knows that Duncan holds all the power. Educators may write blogs, opinion pieces, books, and research studies, and they will be completely ignored by Duncan. To say the least, he is uninterested in dialogue and unwilling to change his hardened belief that his policies are successful, no matter what anyone says.
And what Ravitch says about Duncan goes for John King as well.
It would be nice to have a civil discourse about what is wrong with education with the education reformers in power and the education reformers funding those in power, but alas, that is not to be.
To have a civil discourse on an issue, you need two sides willing to engage in that discourse.
The education reformers have shown again and again that they are not willing to engage in civil discourse over their agenda.
They will attack you if you don't agree with them, they will ignore you if you write them letters or leave messages telling them what you think are problems with their agenda, they will continue to impose their will on the public school system, public school students and public school teachers no matter what you or I think or say about it.
And so, in the end, the only way to bring about change, the only way to put an end to the education reform agenda, is to marshal the anger of parents and teachers into positive action for change.
And if John King or any other education reform public figure gets called a "hypocrite" or gets his feelings hurt in the process, well, that is just too damned bad.
That is what happens when a coterie of reformers gets together to impose their agenda on the country with little to no say from the public.