Can You Hear Me Now?
Please note the UPDATES at the end of this post.
On Monday, May 24, 2010, a number of teachers I know, some personally and some through online networks, had a chance to speak with Arne Duncan. The conference call came about through the efforts of ACT member Anthony Cody, whose disillusionment with the federal education agenda led him to start a Facebook group called Teachers’ Letters to Obama. That grassroots organizing involved a letter writing campaign, and also led teacher Marsha Ratzel to help push the conference call idea into the consciousness of some people at the Department of Education.
The conversation, if we can call it that, turned out to be rather disappointing to the teacher participants. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’ve had my own negative experience with a DOE conference call, and the descriptions I’ve seen suggest that yesterday’s events were more of the same. The bottom line is that the so-called experts on education go through the motions of hearing teachers, but not really listening. Our expertise is discounted or ignored, and our criticisms are held against us like so much self-interested complaining. If an architectural firm were designing a new workplace for you, wouldn’t you appreciate having the architects asking you about your work, trying to understand your needs? Well, at the architectural firm of Arne Duncan and Co., they tell you what they’re going to do about your workplace, then they offer you a chance to respond to their plans – for about 15 minutes – and then proceed with their designs regardless of what you actually need.
But I wasn’t there. So, see what my friends and colleagues have to say:
ACT Members –
- Anthony Cody – Living In Dialogue: Talking into a Tin Can on a string 3000 miles long: Our Talk with Duncan
- Heather Wolpert-Gawron – Tweenteacher: Arne Duncan call: Final Curtain or Just Act 1 ?
Colleagues from Teacher Leaders Network –
- Nancy Flanagan – Teacher in a Strange Land: Speed-Dating With the Secretary of Education
- Marsha Ratzel – Reflections of a Techie: What I Didn’t Say Today
- Mary Tedrow – Walking to School: Monday Chat With Duncan
And one more California teacher, for good measure –
- Chuck Olynyk – Save Fremont: Word Game
UPDATE (5/26/10): Secretary Duncan placed a direct call to Anthony Cody in the aftermath of all of this. If you found yourself nodding in agreement at any of the criticisms, then let’s also give Duncan some credit for the follow up actions. I sugggest you go ahead and read Anthony’s account of that phone call.
UPDATE #2(5/26/10): The Secretary also made a call to Marsha Ratzel, who has a similarly interesting, dare I say encouraging, story to tell.