Agreeing to Agree [Coalition Over Ideology]
It feels so good to be back! I’ve only been able to differentiate day and night by the amount of buzz I hear outside. With my newborn’s eating schedule out of rhythm right now, we’ve gently tried to encourage him to take the 2-3 hours route so we can get some sleep in the intervals.
In your blog post, “Learning How To Be Principled,” you said:
“if [Matt Damon] met Kilian, or some of the other former TFA fellows like Sophia Pappas, Executive Director of the NYC Office of Early Childhood Education, or Jennifer Rosenbaum, Director of Instruction and Performance, he might think twice about refusing on principle. He might decide to use the recognition by the NEA as an opportunity to express a more nuanced opinion that might make a substantive difference [...] his refusal to accept a recognition from the National Education Association on principle makes his passion in Washington look more like a publicity stunt than a passionate belief. It also casts whatever strides towards teacher voice that were gained in D.C. in the shadow of Damon as just another education advocate against reform. I don’t really think this is the case but it puts my own perspective in relief. How can we have strong opinions without arguing for arguments’ sake. In this case, disagreeing on principle actually made him seem less principled to me because he squandered an opportunity.”
Well, first, let me say that I found him fairly genuine at the protest, and the earnest with which he approaches his work solidifies his solid reputation. Having said that, I don’t believe that all their contentions about Teach for America (and other alternative certification programs) are prudent. As someone who graduated from NYC Teaching Fellows, I don’t consider myself unprepared for the classroom. Frankly, some of us can jump in to the classroom and learn on the job for different reasons. It really depends on whether or not the school has the right staff to supplement the perceived lack of training for our newest teachers.
But that’s the equivalent of pulling hairs. I do believe in the idea of teacher residency as a model for training teachers, and that seems to get the most bang for its buck. I also believe that we as a country can come up with a handful of tenets that we of like spirit can come up with that will generate the best achievement for students. When I was younger, I used to believe that having a really small unit of people who believed in about 95% of the same things can get the most accomplished. I used to believe that all the groups I saw running together all believed in the same things and had the same behaviors.
As I’ve gotten older and seen how different movements work, I’ve noticed that, whether charitable or nefarious, the most effective movements have a small, malleable, and memorable set of core beliefs and tenets for their congregation. Obviously, the core team of Teaching 2030 represents that. The diversity in ed-thought reigned supreme over the diversity of experiences, but we all held a few core beliefs that make our partnership so unique. Items like student learning, teacher voice, and social value on education all matter to us, and we always took our conversations (and disagreements) back to that. We never needed reminders about respect, professionalism, and care because it was assumed that we had those three tenets concretely affirmed for us.
Some of this plays itself out in other venues where the amount of people is inversely proportional to the amount of tenets these people can agree upon. Once we strike a nice balance between those tenets. That’s why, unlike my colleagues who look for ideological purity, I can shake hands with a much broader set of people. Like Art Wise. Like Deborah Meier. Like Diane Ravitch. Like Pedro Noguera.
Like Matt Damon. I don’t know what else played into the decision of dissenting against the NEA award, but I wonder if there was more space to discuss the nuances of the alternative certification discussion. It’s my background and I wouldn’t know what to do myself if, after graduating from four years of undergraduate school, I’d have to go through another four years for education. Then again, Dr. Carlsson-Paige, Mr. Damon, and I agree on about 90% of things in education. Actually, Mr. Betlach might be in that boat as well. The passion for education is certainly there.
Let’s find a way to find those tenets we hold dear to us and build from there. I’m sure we can think of something.