Education Opinion

This is What Democracy Looks Like

By Nancy Flanagan — March 17, 2011 1 min read
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All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.


Love that quote--although obviously, truth is a relative concept. Let’s presume that truth looks something like this:

Our educational system is not very good. Its greatest flaw is its inherent inequity. There is a dangerous and growing gap between the pretty-good education children of privilege access--and the shabby leftovers we give children in poverty. We can dress those leftovers up in plaid jumpers and polo shirts, tinker with non-unionized teacher compensation, send in two-year adventure teachers from Yale--but the fact remains: children in poverty are disregarded in the land of the free, home of the brave. And it's catching up with us in some terrible ways.

We have passed through stage one, the rising tide of mediocrity, the market-based solutions and the finger-pointing. We are now entering stage two-- a cataclysmic upheaval. Pay attention. Because what happens next sets the template for the way American schools will look for a long time--as the new truth emerges.

In her wonderful new blog, Deborah Meier asks: “Do we really want schools to undo our class divisions?” Trust Meier to cut right to the heart of the issue.

The violent opposition emerging state by state, across the nation, is not about tenure, LIFO, critical pedagogy, teacher quality, charters, merit pay, class size, pink-slipping--or even unions. They’re symptoms, even distractions.

Violently opposing--or vigorously supporting--a single solution to the ugly truth misses the point: we’re teetering on the brink of losing one of America’s best ideas-- a free, high-quality public education for all children in America, once considered a cornerstone of democratic equality and economic progress. We can’t “superman” our way out of the truth.

I’m picking up my virtual picket sign and joining the glass-half-full club. It’s time stand up for the core democratic values--the ones we teach in seventh grade social studies.

Beginning with next Tuesday’s EDUSolidarity blog sweep. Join me.

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.