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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Occupy the Schoolhouse!

Time magazine has named the Protester as 2011’s Person of the Year. However, as I read  the Time article reviewing the year in protests and revolutions,  I found  one critical protest  missing from the narrative: the Save Our Schools movement.  Aside from some limited coverage around the national march in July, the national media has largely ignored this important protest against the latest education “reform” movement .  The Occupy movement, on the other hand, with its diffuse anger and unnamed frustration,  gets plenty of play. But the SOS movement?  Not so much.  As I read the Time article, I began to wonder why.
Of course, there is the obvious: the Occupy movement made an obstacle of itself in city after city, disrupting the normal operation of the establishment. The Save Our Schools movement, on the other hand, did not occupy the schoolhouse or disrupt the delivery of education to children anywhere. Do not get me wrong: I share the anger and frustration behind the Occupy movement and I’m sympathetic to their actions. I just think the movement needs some focus if it is going to accomplish anything.
It is focus that distinguishes the Save Our Schools movement from the Occupy movement and is, I think, a key reason behind the lack of attention by the government, the media, and the public at large.  The Save Our Schools Movement is focused, articulate and crystal clear about what it stands for, what needs to be done, and the role of government in meeting the movement’s demands.  So what is wrong with clarity and focus versus diffused anger and unfocused frustration? Clarity and focus demand action. There is no escaping it; no place to hide. Diffused anger and unfocused frustration let those in positions of power off the hook. You can analyze, criticize, sympathize, but you don’t have to act. If you do want to take some action, you can do what you want in whatever measure you want, since no one seems to have any specific demands. Or, you can just deal in rhetoric.
The challenge for the Save Our Schools movement in 2012 is capturing and holding the attention of the public, the media, and government in a way similar to the Occupy movement, but without disrupting education or losing the focus  that demands action. How do we successfully occupy the schoolhouse  politically rather than physically?
Happy New Year!

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