On demonizing our opponents

In the “final” showdown one must take sides–for or against– and anyone not on my side is my enemy. I suppose. But in the meantime, it can be fascinating to “see” the world through other perspectives. I had lunch yesterday with two good friends, Carol and Joe Reich. They started a public school in Brooklyn many year go–after being dicouraged with their work in I Had A Dream (mostly focused on after school enrichment and promised support for college). I visited the school–Beginning With Children–in the early years. And I loved it. They soon got so frustrated with dealing with NYC’s bureaucracy (despite close ties to Klein et al) that they became a charter–and have written a book about it, “Getting to Bartlett Street” (which will be officially out in a few weeks). I was delighted and infuriated with it. But it led to a wonderful – and at moments infuriating – lunchtime conversation. We left better friends than ever. I needed to understood why they took the path they did (and they don’t always agree with each other!). I need to fight the privatization of schools (and many other public enterprises) while also listening to what attracts some very good people to it. Sometimes it’s because they just want a chance to do schooling the way they think would be best and find it much harder with a hostile bureaucracy. Me too! And sometimes because they are hoping there’s a magic (my word) solution–a lever that can be pushed and behold! And sometimes because they see money in it. Without the latter it wouldn’t be much of a worry. But it’s well to remember that for folks like my friends there’s been endless unpaid time and no money in return. Demonizing isn’t necessary. I’ll admit it can be fun and energizing–which is why it’s been a tool of warfare centuries and more old. But it isn’t a necessary ingredient for success and may make success harder to achieve, not easier.

3 Responses

  1. Amen! Let’s keep looking for better ideas and putting them into action, one victory at a time….

  2. We might the innovation in the open honesty good conversation brings.

    Ivon

  3. Interesting reading the sequence of your friends’ search for a way to provide the kind of school they wanted, with public funds. When charters were first proposed, I was firmly in the world of progressive independent schools, excited by the possibility of securing public funds for our schools.We know it mostly didn’t go that way. Now I find myself in district schools with too many frustrations–and $$ being made by corporations. Are charter chains inevitable? I wonder if there is a third option to come–another systemic way of providing public funding for schools we want?

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