Category Archives: lobbyist

Why we have trouble mobilizing our voice.

This post is a response to Scott McLeod’s post Why are we educators having so much trouble mobilizing our voice in ways that are effective.

Scott’s post really resonated with my thoughts this week. I want to share a personal story that I think addresses Scott’s questions.

I teach in a PBL school that is part of the New Tech Network of over one hundred schools. Our class is participating in the #MYparty12 election project across our network. Students are creating their own political parties and voting on them based on their platforms and campaign commercials. Students are also watching the debates and tweeting about them, inviting in state politicians, and collaborating with other schools in different ways.

Yesterday I received an email and later had phone conversations with a producer of a national TV program that is interested in doing a story about the project. We are very excited about the possibility of this happening although it remains only a possibility at this point.

What I would like to share is the effort it took to get to this point. I was at New Tech training that they provide for us this summer and met many of their amazing staff. I also volunteered to do an Ignite talk at the conference which led me to develop closer relationships with both New Tech personnel and other New Tech teachers. I also network with many educators both in and out of New Tech through this blog and Twitter. While at the conference I had the crazy idea of a network wide project centered around the election. I immediately shared it with these teachers and staff.

We all agreed to make this happen and over the summer and into the fall we had numerous emails sent, virtual meetings, and created many documents to share with other teachers. The classroom teachers worked hard to develop the project and the supporting materials and dreamed up crazy ideas to implement it. This was a lot of work and time consuming but we would have done this work for our classes anyway.

Here is my main point: New Tech Network made this project huge in ways we never could have by ourselves. Three of their staff have committed considerable time and energy to this project: a professional marketer, a social media expert, and a person who has just organized the collaboration and done all of the “dirty work” behind the scenes. By myself I never would have had the time, energy, or connections to pull this off and then “advertise” it to get the attention of a national network. I am busy teaching my students in my classroom.

I blog; I tweet; I share at state and local conferences. But I do not have the ability to influence the national policy on education. New Tech Network does. And it has professional marketers / lobbyists who are making the connections in the media and in Washington D.C.

I am not saying that New Tech Network is going to solve all of the education problems in this country by itself. What I am trying to show is that the average classroom teacher, me, does not have the ability to have a loud voice in isolation. The power of a large network of schools is that we can mobilize large projects and have professionals market them. If I was to pick from Scott’s choices of why we are having trouble mobilizing our voices I would say we are being outspent and need to do a better job of marketing.

My conclusion is this (which I have said before) I think we need lobbyists in DC who represent progressive, student-centered inquiry as a model of education. We need money and someone who can build connections with both Congress and the Department of Education and “sell” a better way to do school than test prep and standardized tests.

Any takers??? I would donate $50 for that person’s salary and if everyone on blogs and Twitter that says they care about these issues pitched in I think we could afford a few lobbyists.

Education Lobbyist Platform

Well, I did not get much response from my idea of educators banding together and paying one of our own to lobby Washington D.C. for legitimate change in education. I did name a few names in my comments on the blog that sparked the original post and a couple of them responded. (Again I want to emphasize that my original question of “Why do none of the ed-tech leaders seem to have the ear of Duncan, Obama, or any of the other politicians making terrible education policy?” was not meant to be a critique of anyone but was a genuine question).

Some of the responses given were obvious and make sense: “politics, everyone is an education expert, and politician’s minds are hard to change.” But one reason was given that I disagree with: “Don’t assume that even the people in your list agree on the large or small issues regarding a deeply complex issue like education.”

Now I know that people could argue about the fine points of education forever much like churches argue about theology. We love to split into denominations: Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, 5-point Calvinism, 4-point Calvinism, 2.5-point Calvinism, etc. 

We have educators who believe in standard based grading, rubrics, or no grading; homework, modified homework, or no homework; IWB’s, clickers, laptops, IPads, cell-phones, 1:1, or limit technology; student-owned devices or school purchased; experimentation or research-based decisions; public schools, charters, TFA, or KIPP.

We struggle to define loaded terms and concepts such as Web 2.0, 21st Century skills, literacy, learning, purpose of schools, PLN, social learning.

But even with all of our differences I think that we could agree on some basic tenets of quality education at the Federal level and leave all of the rest to local districts to figure out in their communities. So here is my education platform:

  • Get rid of standardized tests
  • Get rid of NCLB and RTTT
  • Constructivist, student-centered learning
  • Re-write CIPA to give localities power to decide how and what to filter and to allow for the option of student-owned devices
  • Support technology integration in schools
  • Encouragement of cooperation and collaboration in schools
  • Focus on critical thinking and problem solving
Again what these look like in each district would be different, but wouldn’t we all agree to these broad goals over NCLB and RTTT? So do you agree that we agree or am I assuming too much? Are there things you would add or subtract from this list?