School & District Management Opinion

No Resolutions. No Prognostications. No Top Ten.

By Nancy Flanagan — January 04, 2016 2 min read
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I’m not gonna do it. No ed-related resolutions for 2016, no rosy predictions, no summary of what went right and feels hopeful from 2015, or what went abominably wrong.

Because these predictable turn-of-the-year columns, provocative as they may be, are--frankly--what my 7th grade Science teacher, Mr. Stimac, used to call baloney sausage. (Side note: It was not lost on us, even back in innocent 1963, what the short-form designation of said sausage might be--so Mr. Stimac used that phrase to enlighten us about any number of fallacious, pseudo-science theories across the span of history. May he rest in peace.)

Remember January 2008? When we were all excited about someone--anyone!--new moving into the White House and dismantling the muddled failure that was No Child Left Behind? Remember the Linda Darling Hammond vs. Lisa Graham Keegan cage match, in October of 2008, where two clear visions of education policy were presented. If only the right person were elected, we could put ourselves back on track toward better teaching, better learning, better schools...or not.

How about January of 1992, when primitive social media--on-line bulletin boards, back then--was going to connect educators across the country and democratize our work? We would share free lesson plans and expand curriculum beyond standardized textbooks, building non-commercial, no-profit-ever, hands-on/minds-on learning networks. Available to anyone with a computer. Public education would lead the way in funding innovative, elegant technology use--tools for progress, and equity. Maybe.

Or January of 2013, when a sickened and numb public, bearing witness to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, would pressure legislators to ensure that guns would be harder to get? Laws would pass, faster and faster, states coming quickly to the realization that handguns are dangerous--and allowing citizens to openly carry assault weapons represents civic idiocy.

So--the past year was like any other, a mix of ups and downs in this post-Citizens United world, where money talks and political operatives and media carry out what money demands. And next year is a mystery.

There’s an election, and both good and terrible candidates will be elected. Fewer public schools will open their doors in September, more veteran teachers will quit in disgust. Policy will shift in progressive as well as destructive ways. But there will still be dynamic classrooms and amazing teachers. Not much more than that is predictable. Stuff happens, as the bumper sticker says.

Am I cynical about education in 2016? No more cynical--or positive-- than I’ve ever been. I long ago learned that being upbeat and honey-not-vinegar is no more effective than being critical, cranky and pushy in getting what we need to preserve public education.

And let’s be clear: that’s the goal. There are many facets to the goal, around testing, standardization, funding, governance, “data” interpretation and the steady erosion of the democratic concept of public good. In the end, however, all the shouting boils down to one thing: Will genuinely public--not publicly funded, privately managed-- education survive and thrive?

Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m going to keep on truckin’.

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.