The short answer is no.
The longer answer is still no.
Actually, I thought Save Our Schools was defunct. But since their initial march in 2011, which arrived with some very high profile speakers and great fanfare from those of us already embedded in various movements on behalf of public schools, things have been pretty quiet for SOS. Most of the activist efforts shifted to splinter groups, especially the Network for Public Education. This new march and conference, scheduled for the hottest and most miserable month in DC, is likely an attempt to bring together new and old organizations, many of which didn’t exist in 2011, when the first event occurred.
I have to say, however, that the movement has not evolved much since 2011. There is still an overwhelming reliance on very old and traditional models of activism, namely marches, speeches, and conferences. When SOS first came to town in 2011, it seemed like a very novel thing. I was a college professor at the time, and this more abstract form of activism seemed like a great idea at the time. You might be thinking, abstract? What is more concrete than a march and speech?
For me, marches and speeches and conferences are fantastic starting points. You have a nebulous congress of people with very similar interests gathered to speak out against a general problem and make indictments against specific groups or individuals. Hopefully, as was the case for me, this gathering of like minded people from various parts of the country inspires more localized activism and organization.
But here we are, roughly five years later, and SOS is doing a march, a bunch of speeches, and a conference. All of these people, many of whom will speak if invited to the opening of an envelope, are going to descend upon this city and do what, precisely? All of this money spent on hotels and travel and meals will do what? Could those dollars not be spent on defense funds for teachers who are speaking out? I don’t know, anything but checks to the Holiday Inns of the world.
Five years is not enough time passed to re-introduce SOS to a new generation of activists. Perhaps 10 years, but not five. So what will occur is a simple rehash of the same people and same talking points. The same people will arrive to pimp their books and blogs, but not help a single school or teacher in the process. Panels and roundtables will convene, and ultra-serious adults will have very important conversations. But this format does not seem to match the radical change and revolution that must occur. This all seems very safe to me, organized by people who are very safe in their proposals, methods, and propositions.
Well, why don’t YOU organize your own event then?
And even only after two annual events, the format was tired, cliched.
It’s time for something else, and yet another march in July is not it.