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.