Sunday, July 7, 2013

A time to reflect on our behavior . . .
Reading Scott and John's comments to my charter lawsuit post and then seeing this Education Policy Center post about the charter lawsuit made me decide to share another thought that troubles me.  The Policy Center post is not unexpected as the Center was one of the major supporters of the successful charter initiative.  The following phrase was used in their post and is one that we read at the state and national level to describe education associations.

The WEA union is widely recognized as the primary obstacle to education reform in the state, so education analysts have long expected an anti-Initiative 1240 lawsuit would be filed some time this year.

Reformists use the phrase, "primary obstacle to education reform" when the reforms they propose are not supported by an association.  Does this mean that education associations do not support any change and seek always to block reform efforts?  I don't believe that to be true, especially at the local level where we have partnered with our association to support changes that have sustained over time.  Just reading the "WEA union" opening to the sentence troubles me.  WEA stands for Washington Education Association, so what does adding union bring?  It brings with it the negative mental models that many have about unions to support the opinion that the union is the major obstacle.

I am not supporting the stance of WEA on this issue nor do I mean to focus on the Policy Center as there are others that say and use the same phrase to support their position.  I could also go to Association posts and find similar phrases that attribute negative motives for reformer recommendations.  These mental models have contributed to the education policy gap we experienced in the last legislative session and I fear will carry over to the next session if we can't find ways to close that gap.

If we don't like our current reality, fighting over conflicting policy will only continue the win/lose environment we are currently experiencing.  The gap will not close as long as those in powerful positions of influence are comfortable with current reality.  To close the gap, policy makers and those that influence them at the state and national level must be willing to reflect on the assumptions they hold about public education and make a decision that it is in the best interest of young people to find what we can agree on as a starting point to creating a shared vision of what might be.

Comments like those in the Center post and by others on all sides of this issue will only result in continuing our current reality, one dominated by disagreement and seeking power and influence.  It will take new structures for this to happen that have eluded us in the past, but I believe that it is possible if we can create the capacity for the reflective conversations necessary to begin and sustain the dialogue. It will not be easy and may not happen, but we need to decide if it is important enough.  I believe that it is.  We are wasting too much energy on power struggles where we need to dedicate all our energy to implementing the multiple options that will be needed for all young people to experience success in our public schools and this may include charters.  It is time for all of us to reflect on what drives our behavior, winning policy battles or working collaboratively to discover the structures needed for supporting teachers and students in our classrooms.

I agree with John's comment to my previous post.

But in the end, let a dead horse lie. We need to focus on solving the problems that lay before us; that is where we should be placing our energies. 

No comments: