The Education Reform Hero No One Recognizes
I started publishing my opinions on things sometime in the mid-1990s. It started with letters to the (various) editors of the Kalamazoo Gazette, grew into longer opinion pieces, rambled through various departments of my college newspaper, and finally metastasized outright when I started publishing screeds at Dissent.
Over that period, I’ve written about all sorts of things: sex, football, fútbol, religion, immigration, ideology, foreign aid, hipsters, etc. But nothing—NOTHING—provokes the tenor of reactions that I get when I publish thoughts about education. Hurrah for the education wars! May they bring us to polarization to rival abortion policy “dialogue!”
Why the abuse? Broadly speaking, most of the furious emails are a response to one of the following things:
- I’m part of the broad “education reform” movement. Sometimes I have nice things to say about Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and others like them.
- I’m a former (Teach For America) teacher who is critical of teachers’ unions.
- I do not—they assume—have children, and thus have no standing for participating in education policy arguments (I am a father).
In other words, I’m one of those people on that side of the debate. For readers who are one of these sort on this side, it’s easy to assume that I am Scott Walker’s secret inspiration or part of Bill Gates’ nefarious conspiracy to force all American students to use machines running Windows 95 for the full course of their PreK–12 careers.
This gets disheartening. So I’m always glad when I can find something nice to say about someone who isn’t usually assumed to be on my education policy “team.” My appointed email/comment/tweet tormenters can rejoice—I have a column in today’s Washington Post praising D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Remember Gray? The Rhee-Slayer? The Fenty Stopper? He fits the bill better than anyone not named Diane Ravitch.
And, lo and behold, he’s possibly the biggest D.C. education reform hero of all…but it’s not for the reasons you think. Click here to find out why that’s the case!
Follow Conor on Twitter: @conorpwilliams.