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Sacramento’s new mayor, Kevin Johnson, is hosting an “invitation-only” all-day Education Summit on March 9th. Speakers include Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools, Joel Klein from New York City, and quite a few others who have successfully co-opted the phrase “school reform” to mean a lot of decidedly different things — in practice — than what I believe in.

I find it interesting that it’s being held at a time — all day on a Monday — when it will be difficult, if not impossible, for teachers or school administrators to attend. In fact, it’s even more interesting that the registration form for the event provides a number of different ways to label yourself, but neither “teacher” nor “administrator” is included.

I do believe that we “progressive” (for lack of a better label) educators can indeed learn from the experience and ideas from the people speaking at the summit.  Unfortunately, from what I know of at least some of their work, it doesn’t appear that many share that same openness about learning from others.  And from the way the summit is being organized, it doesn’t look like Kevin Johnson is interested in it, either.

As many readers of this blog and my own know, I was a community organizer for nineteen years before becoming a high school teacher five years ago.  For most of that time, I worked for the Industrial Areas Foundation, founded by legendary organizer Saul Alinsky over fifty years ago.  In his book, Rules For Radicals, Alinsky wrote:

“I detest and fear dogma…The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right..”

It’s a quote that all of us, including the people speaking at the Education Summit, might well want to keep in mind.

8 Responses to “Quite A Line-Up Coming To Sacramento”

  1. [...] Quite A Line-Up Coming To Sacramento is the title of a new post I’ve written at “In Practice,” the group blog written by several of us who teach at schools in low-income communities. [...]

  2. teacherninja says:

    Keep stirring the pot, Larry! We need to make our voices heard. I hope some teachers and admins take the time to go and ask some pointed questions. Great quote! Thanks.

  3. I know the principal at the school where I teach will be attending, and he’s terrific. I’ll certainly write a follow-up post about what happens at the meeting.

    Larry

  4. Brian Crosby says:

    Larry – does seem a bit (at least) of a stacked conference. I get NPR from Sacramento so I have heard about the Mayor’s race there, but certainly not completely up on it. I noted the KIPP representation, but am not sure who some of the other panel members are to see if there is any balance what so ever. Should be interesting.

    One thing about Rhee’s and Klein’s running of large districts is that if they are not markedly successful maybe the accountability and teacher quality arguments will be somewhat muted at least? I realize any seeming rise in test scores are and will be trumpeted by them, but the whole thing should be fun to watch. Maybe you and I and Alice can go and try to stir the pot!?
    Brian

  5. blogwalker says:

    I’m seriously thinking about attending. If I do, I’ll blog it live.

  6. Brian and Gail,

    People were invited by email, and were told the “invitations weren’t transferable,” so I don’t exactly know how genuinely public the event is. Maybe that phrase doesn’t really mean anything.

    It would be interesting to go, and I think it would be great if the two of you and Alice were able to make the time, and get in.

    I’ll have just returned from an an International Baccalaureate training (speaking of interesting, I’m going to have an interesting schedule next year — Theory of Knowledge, which is the IB philosophy class; mainstream ninth grade English; and Intermediate English with ELL’s) and don’t want to be gone a third day from the classroom.

    Larry

  7. alicemercer says:

    I’ll just be back from CUE then, and out the next day for a field trip at Sutter’s Fort with my nephew’s class, so I’m thinking I would be over-stretched and out of the lab way too long. Also, all they need to do is google me, and I’d be eliminated from the guest list after what I’ve written about Rhee.

  8. [...] fits in nicely with a quote I used in a recent In Practice post from Saul Alinsky, the “father” of modern-day community [...]

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