For the first time ever, @the chalkface presents a children’s story.
There once was a shiny pendulum. It was a happy pendulum. Everyday it would swing one way and then swing back. Day after day the shiny pendulum would swing one way and then back. The pendulum was happy because it always knew that as soon as it would swing so far out one way it would ALWAYS reach a point a swing back. Over and over again. Back and forth. Consistent and predictable. Life was good for the shiny pendulum.
There once was a yellow school bus. Legend has it that a long time ago (11-12 years ago) it was happy. You see back then the bus and the pendulum had very similar lives. The bus would pick up children in the morning, take them to schools, and then bring them home. Over and over again. Back and forth. Consistent and predictable.
However, one day while returning to the parking garage the bus picked up an efficiency expert. The expert insisted that the bus was performing “below basic” and was “failing.” According to the expert the bus was costing taxpayers a lot of money. He said to the bus, “Don’t worry. I will fix you.”
The next day as the bus left to pick up the children the efficiency expert handed the bus NEW DIRECTIONS. The efficiency expert reassured the bus that the new directions were well “researched” and supported by many influential organizations and powerful people. The bus smiled. The bus was happy. Today was the day the bus would emerge from those horrible labels of “below basic” and “failing.”
So off it went following the brand new directions. The bus happily picked up all the children and then instead of making the usual turn to head back to the school the bus used the efficiency expert’s new directions and went full speed ahead and drove off a cliff.
The reason I wrote this story is because I have been spending a lot of time trying to help parents understand why opting out of corporate education reform is probably the only method that has any chance of saving our public schools and recognizes the massive Civil Rights violation masquerading as reform.
So I thought about the cause of the resistance to opt out. Most of it is fear—fear of hurting the school and the teachers. But maybe the biggest obstacle to opt out is the dominating metaphor that is used to describe reform movements in public education—the pendulum!
So this morning I find out there is a “Don’t Opt Out Facebook page.” Parents across the country considering opt out were wondering if there was legitimacy to the “Don’t Opt Out” movement. I decided to try to explain and I sent this email to the concerned parents.
The reason they focus on not opting out is because they have not made the cognitive leap–opt out is not about hurting schools and children.
I have been thinking about this and maybe a metaphor will help explain why opt out is the only option at this moment in history. For the longest time education reforms have typically been seen as a pendulum. It swings so far and then swings back. Therefore the best strategy to take on reforms if they don’t work is to wait! The pendulum will eventually reach a high point and then swing back. No action required.
However, today this metaphor is a disaster and is killing most of the momentum behind fighting the reform movement. How about this? We are all on a bus headed towards a cliff. When people say don’t opt out they are saying, “look there are rules on this bus and we don’t want to hurt others by disobeying the rules.” Others talk about rearranging seats or decorating the bus differently. However, none of these acts of compliance will do anything to stop the bus from driving off the cliff. Therefore opt out is fully recognizing that the bus is headed towards a cliff. And since this new truth is realized the actions needed to make a difference become much different. We need to opt out. We need to stop the bus. Failure to stop the bus guarantees that ALL will not only be hurt but permanently damaged or destroyed.
It might be extreme but trust me, the reform movement has no intention of changing direction. The rules that have been put into place have one goal–destroy public education. If you have a hard time accepting this as reality you need to spend more time reading the work of the reformers. Go to the Eli Broad web page. Look at Democrats for Education Reform. Listen to Michelle Rhee. They are not talking about helping public schools. All of their reforms have a single goal and that is to turn public education into an efficient system of curriculum delivery using low paid and unskilled workers (not teachers). They are driving the bus off the cliff. The rules on the bus are a distraction from the destination. That is why we OPT OUT!
Does this help? We’re not on a shiny pendulum that will finally reach a point and start to return. We are on a bus headed towards a cliff. If you’re on this bus with me what are you willing to do to stop the coming disaster?
Follow Timothy D. Slekar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/slekar