On National Education Discourse (Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That)

Jose Vilson Jose

Enemies in education? Ain't nobody got time for that!

Enemies in education? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

This is what happens when you start listening to folks who think the answer is square in the middle.

The first time I took issue with a Michael Petrilli post, I was annoyed because, when it comes to education, only the people in his circle (frenemies or not) mattered and the rest of us (read: people of color) generally didn’t. You’ll note in his post that he calls for people to get familiar with others outside their echo chamber when he clearly has a silo of his own.

So forgive me for using him as a clear example of the national discourse in education.

In his world, you got educators, activists, and other lefty types in one end and all the members of the Billionaire Boys Club (not Pharrell), policymakers, central office types, and conservatives on the other. By looking at who they follow on Twitter, we can tell in which echo chamber they belong where they fit neatly with everyone else who belongs in those groups.

Well, it’s not that simple. Nuance never is.

Why would I want to hear that the best policies for education come from hedge fund managers and number crunchers? Why would I want to read that the best way to improve schools is to put them in a perpetual cycle of open-close-open-close? Why would I want to tell someone off for telling me that value-added teacher reports make more sense than, say, my students and parents approving of my performance?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

We can be honest, too: educators hear way more from policymakers than vice versa. While policymakers can go months without having a single teacher voice their opinions directly to them, teachers can’t go a day without hearing some person from on high telling them about a brand new method for instruction, especially in high-poverty schools. Policymakers write it; we live it. You’ll excuse us if we don’t always want to follow the big policymakers and outwardly reject their notions because of their lack of experience.

We just don’t got time for that, either.

While Petrilli’s over there having a discussion on education discourse, enemies, and all that other nonsense, the rest of us are here teaching children for a living, doing our best to get them from point A to point Z with nothing but a marker and a notebook. He’s over there acting like both sides hold the same weight in moving the education needle right now while teachers barely make it in the classroom these days. Thank goodness I have my own site, an Internet connection, and an hour to spare in my day, or else I’d never get a word in for the discussion.

Frankly, neither would the rest of us. You’ll do well to stop thinking of the next person as an enemy and shift your priorities. Most educators I know prefer to have facts in front of them, no matter how it deludes their own argument for school improvement. Once we’ve read it and responded, though, we have to face kids, and have another type of discourse you never see except in movies and soft-lens primetime specials.

Jose, who just had to let you know …