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Might “School Reformers” Go “A Bridge Too Far”?

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You might be familiar with the movie “A Bridge Too Far.” It’s a fictionalized account of a real military campaign by the Allies in World War II to end the war in 1944. They hoped to attack deeply into Germany by quickly capturing several bridges that would allow them to pour troops in. They were initially successfully in capturing some of them, but then ended up having to retreat. It’s since become an idiom for overreaching.

I’m beginning to wonder — tentatively — if (please note all those cautions) “school reformers” might be approaching their own “bridge too far.”

Today, the Sacramento Bee, a rabid supporter of “school reform,” criticized Michelle Rhee. It’s the first time anything negative about anything related to this kind of school reform has appeared in its pages.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times offered a critique of how the parent trigger is being used, and it appears the first use of the law may fail.

Michelle Rhee has suffered a little bit of a backlash after writing her incredibly narcissistic Newsweek piece (which Robert Pondiscio calculated included 100 “me” “my” and “I’s”) after being forced to leave Washington, D.C.

Mayor Bloomberg has experienced a huge backlash as a result of his decision to place a magazine publisher with no education experience in charge of New York public schools.

Granted, these are not dramatic reversals — the newspaper criticism, though unusual, did not condemn the policies, and Bloomberg did eventually get his choice confirmed. Rhee is still going full steam ahead in her effort to raise one billion dollars to support her agenda.

But it has got me wondering…

During my nineteen-year community organizing career, we always kept a saying in mind — “your opponent always does your best organizing for you.” (unfortunately, though I’m always hopeful of working in partnership with anyone who wants to improve schools, the rhetoric of many reformers says that if I don’t agree with them than that means I’m not for children and am for the status quo. Because of that, I feel like I’m obligated to consider them “opponents” — for now, at least.)

That organizing truism never failed.

I’m hopeful that the streak won’t end.

Do you think I’m being overly optimistic?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

2 Comments

  1. Yeah, this is disingenuous.

    Teachers are still fired at a rate of something like 1 in 1200. No other profession is plagued with such a high retention rate of people who just plain need to find a better fit for a career.

    People move in and out of other professions regularly. It’s the heart and sole of innovation. I bring the skills from my first career to my second and third. So do you.

  2. I hope you are right Larry. I agree that it would be so good to work together but we need partners don’t we?
    Bonnie

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