Dispatch from the Save Our Schools Rally

I went to the Ellipse on Friday to attend the SOS Rally and while I’m going to write something longer and more coherent about it over the next couple of days, here are some semi-random thoughts (and one video) in the meantime:

  • I should have worn sunscreen.
  • If you’re Linda Darling-Hammond and you’re going to stand on a stage denouncing programs that are “staffed by revolving-door beginners and other untrained teachers, many of whom see it as charity work on their way to a real job,” why not just say “Teach for America”? Everybody knows who you’re talking about.
  • Taylor Mali recited his poem “What Teachers Make,” and it was really good, a highlight of the event.
  • Bob Schaeffer from FairTest argued that it’s not really true that NCLB was a bipartisan piece of legislation (it passed the Senate 91-8 and the House 384-45) because it was written by “inside-the-beltway politicians.” Um, I’m pretty sure that all federal legislation is written by inside-the-beltway politicians in that the beltway surrounds the District of Columbia, where laws are made.
  • Pedro Noguera came on next and said, no, it was bipartisan. Also that Obama’s education policy is like his Afghanistan policy in that we were promised something different but really got more of the same.
  • During the musical entertainment break, a teacher with a guitar said “I wrote this a couple of days ago” and then sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with altered parody lyrics. You didn’t really write that, dude.
  • Jonathan Kozol was next. He drives my more conservative education policy friends absolutely crazy, but I’ve always liked Jonathan Kozol. He’s very smart, a helluva writer, and I admire his steadfast insistence that low-income income students need and deserve the same educational resources that wealthy students receive. They absolutely do. I got to spend an hour debating education policy with him over lunch a few years ago and considered it a privilege. That said, when you start talking about “the mania–the pestilence–of testing, like mad cow disease, spreading across the land” and “putting teachers under the sword of ignorant, narrow accountability,” you’re edging into deranged preacher territory. And saying, as Kozol did, that Secretary of Education Duncan is not only rejecting Brown v. Board but trying to restore Plessy v. Ferguson is really beyond the pale.
  • Jon Stewart’s taped address was funny and humane and there was nothing per se objectionable about it. But I wish he would dig deeper into the conversation and understand that this debate is about more than just bogus claims that teachers are overpaid.
  • One of the important things when organizing an event with a strong point of view is avoiding inadvertent self-parody and so I think the SOS people would have been better off keeping this guy (a self-described ’60s SDS veteran) and his rapping off the stage:

For the record, I believe the achievement gap is neither a hustle nor one big crime spree.

[Cross-posted at The Quick & the Ed]

Kevin Carey

Kevin Carey directs the Education Policy Program at New America.