"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Davids Have Goliath Reeling

The battle for public education is a huge front in the war to preserve the public space.  The war to preserve the public space is the war for democracy, for the public space is the only place that democracy can operate.  It does not operate in the corporate board rooms where oligarchs and their stooges are hatching other Scott "Hosni" Walker plans to destroy the public space.

When teachers and parents join hands as they are now in Wisconsin and Indiana, New Jersey and Florida, the Oligarchs' clumsy think tanks cannot deal, cannot maneuver, cannot counter the creativity and the determination behind to power of doing the right thing for our children based on the compelling immediacy to act. 

From Valerie Strauss' blog:
By Valerie Strauss
This was written by Rita M. Solnet, a nonpartisan businesswoman, parent, and Florida education activist.

By Rita M. Solnet
It wasn’t just the type of slingshot or the shape of rock David used when he defeated Goliath. David’s determination was steadfast, his belief system strong, when, with a do or die mindset, he fought Goliath and won. But why did he succeed when others just as determined and just as brave do not?

This question dominated my thoughts this weekend as I watched events unfold in Wisconsin, where teachers are protesting efforts to strip them of collective bargaining rights, and elsewhere: What helps you win when all the power and the money and legislative rule is stacked against you?

My search began. I discovered that despite the odds, "Davids" win nearly one third of the time!

Two years ago, political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft studied every war fought in the past 200 years between strong and weak combatants. He analyzed cases where one side was at least ten times more powerful than the other, and he determined that Goliaths win 71% of the time.

Under the circumstances, this was encouraging, but I still wondered what mystical quality the "Davids" possessed which enabled them to win against the odds?

When the underdogs acknowledged their weakness and employed unanticipated strategies, they won, according to Arreguin-Toft. It wasn’t just David’s determination and fearlessness alone. David did the unexpected. Goliath laughed at the absurdity of David approaching him without armor. David unpredictably broke the rhythm of battle. He acted quickly with one rock and fortuitously lunged forward. He interrupted Goliath’s pace. That’s how David won.

Teachers were not expected to organize parents and students as allies and close down schools in Wisconsin; but, they did. Senators were not expected to leave the state to avoid a quorum; but, they did. The "Davids" are breaking the rhythm of this combat and atypically they’re doing the unexpected.They are, in my opinion, on their way to winning this war!
I read articles last week detailing nearly a half dozen states who plan to launch legislative actions which will severely impact public education. With a spotlight beaming on the Wisconsin turmoil, I wondered if it would be days or weeks before Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Indiana would erupt similarly.

Seeking common ground and compromise is always my preference. But common sense does not appear to prevail in some states where egregious proposals are introduced to strip workers of bargaining rights and to drastically impact the stability of the teaching profession as well as reduce teachers’ salaries. This is not a highly paid profession to begin with. I hasten to add, I am not a teacher.

Initiatives now disguised as "education reforms" are malignant attempts to gain increased power over unions. And parents are fed up watching this disaster unfold as children are sentenced to yet another year of reduced education funds, overcrowded classrooms, and a narrowed, un-enriched curriculum due to riveting focus on a senseless standardized bubble test.

Methods concocted by lawmakers and policymakers today (non educators and non parents of public school children for the most part) are the opposite of what academically high performing countries employ. Finland, for example, is nearly 100% unionized. Finland strengthened their social welfare for children and families, as Diane Ravitch explained in this piece on her Bridging Differences blog). They invested in teachers decades ago and that investment paid off.

It is time for involved parents to react atypically as well. Children’s futures are at stake. Parents should visit, write, and phone their legislators, school boards, chancellors, mayors and governors to tell them to stop using the education of our nation’s children as leverage in their war with unions.

Parents have been disenfranchised in the effort to improve the quality of public education. As "Davids" ourselves, that is no longer acceptable. We are joining forces to break the rhythm of this war as well.

Our schools. Our children. Our voices will be heard.

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