HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

 
Howard Dean at the DNC takes on the assault on public education

by David Atkins

Howard Dean had a small meeting with a bloggers and activists at the PPL blogger building here in Charlotte, where I'm spending most of my time (the people and activities are usually more interesting here than on the convention floor.) The meeting was started with AFT President Randi Weingarten speaking about the need for engagement in public schools so that all kids, not just a select few in charter schools, reach their potential. She then compared that need for everyone to have an even playing field to the labor movement, which attempts to do for adults the same thing that even access to public education attempts to do for children. It was a powerful and evocative message, a parallel link between the two issues that isn't readily apparent at first glance.

Howard Dean expressed his support for Randi as the most progressive union leader in the country, and expressed his anger at those who attack teachers without having any idea what is going on in public schools. Pre-K from 0-3 years old was a major focus of his early remarks: it's hard to teach kids who are severely damaged in the first place. Dean also said that he worried about private for-profit charter schools because they end up the same way that private prisons do. Metrics were not a problem in and of themselves, but we have a long way to go before we have really good ways of evaluating the quality of a teacher. I think he's right on all these fronts.

Weingarten mentioned that the AFT took a page from Howard Dean's 50-state-strategy playbook to engage on the ground in local communities everywhere. It's difficult because one in four children live in poverty, and many communities still don't have broadband. Howard Dean also stepped up to say that while partisan Republicans in Washington are intransigent, Republicans at a local level can often be worked with to help improve communities. Only when communities are improved can the schools be improved. I'm not sure I share the governor's optimism given my experience with local Republican legislators, but perhaps the mileage may vary in other local communities.

My brother Dante asked about the image development problem, in which the unions are seen as recalcitrant to "reform," even as younger activists embrace the conservative "reform" agenda as a cool new approach. Here Weingarten's response was less than encouraging, simply falling back on the idea that what matters isn't so much the narrative as who is doing the work, and that we have to be "sacrosanct on the issues." Unfortunately, that's not going to work. Never has before, and it's not going to now. Labor is going to get killed with that perspective. The narrative is of all-consuming importance.

I deal a lot with activists who think that it doesn't matter how one manages relationships and perception as long as one pounds the pavement and works hard. Sadly, that's not how the world works. Perception is everything in politics, and labor is unfortunately losing that battle.

One good line, though, was that recklessness isn't reform. Governor Dean interjected that it's about lousy public leadership with Republicans who don't give a damn about their communities, and are happy to simply ignore and shunt away as hopeless huge groups of children in poorer communities. He's absolutely right about that.

On the issue of firing bad teachers, Weingarten said that the "reformers" did raise a needed question of the protocols for firing inferior teachers. Dean noted that most people don't like to fire people, but it's also important to hold the administrators accountable for not stepping in quickly to take action when teachers aren't doing their jobs.

On the subject of charter schools, Weingarten cautioned that it's not even about charters anymore, but rather vouchers, similar to Medicare and other issues on which the Right is pushing similar systems. Dean said that charter schools shouldn't be rejected out of hand, but tighten the rules so that they can't cherrypick, and that the public system should learn about the innovations coming from them. Dean brought up the successful charter schools being run by AFT as an example of this phenomenon.

The room came to a consensus that the the biggest problem is for-profit charter schools, though it's important to remember that supposed "non-profit" charters can be run by for-profit organizations.

Finally, I asked the Governor what steps we can take politically as progressive activists against the neoliberals who are supposedly on our side of these issues, but are not. His response was that, again, personal relationships are everything. There is no hope of building relationships with the likes of Scott Walker. But Dean said that even with the Deval Patricks and Corey Bookers of the world, it's important for progressives and union leaders to hold person-to-person meetings to communicate our perspective, and that good progress had been made on those fronts where healthy relationships had been developed.

I'm not sure I fully buy that answer--but I will say that my own experience of politics has shown me that even in the rarefied air of major public policy and elected officials, high-school-style personal politics carry just as much weight as financial incentives and constituent groups. All of life is basically high school. All of it. And while personal relationships won't solve our systemic corruption, obviously, they can go some way toward mitigating the damage if progressives can begin to establish them.

.