If there is one thing you can count on upon leaving Educon it’s that you want to change things, most likely in a pretty big way. It’s not just the vibe at SLA with the kids and the teachers who actually seem to want to be there every day (and even on snow days and weekends) to be learning and leading. And it’s not just the assembled masses who are sharing and prodding and asking great questions in the “conversation” sessions. It’s more the stolen moments in the hallways and the quiet back and forths that happen over lunch when you start to sense this shared feeling of “WTF are we doing to our kids by sticking them in a system that’s just not working anymore?” Or something like that. I can’t tell you how struck I was by how many parent-educators almost grieved at the experience their kids were having in schools. It’s like we know in our hearts there is a better way, but we just don’t know how to make it happen at scale in the next three months. (Years are out of the question.)
We’ve talked about starting a “movement” for a long time now. Chris spent his session this weekend on the subject, and I used mine to offer up an idea for a tangible start to a new conversation. (I’ll be reporting out more on that in the next few days, I hope.) What with Michelle Rhee and Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan dominating the ed change conversation, I think we’re all pining for a bigger voice. That will be tough. We’re underfunded (or should I say unfunded), and I’ll say again that 90% or more of educators in the US really have no context for change in the way that we talk about it in our networks. Sure, we’ve got more people at the party who think the system needs to be transformed instead of reformed, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re still dancing down at the Legion Hall with a Polka band as the headliner.
This weekend I kept thinking, when will we have our Egypt moment? When will we get to the point where enough people feel dissatisfied with the whole school thing and want change badly enough to rise up and say “That’s it! We’re not going to do this anymore!” I know there’s a slim chance that our collective sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo around education will ever match the passion of those people in the streets of Cairo today. But I’m beginning to wonder if there may not be an untapped feeling of frustration around schools that those bigger voices are just not getting. That’s it’s not about improving the current system but, instead, creating a different, better path for our kids. But I also sense that while many people may feel this discomfort, they don’t quite yet know what to do with it.
Those folks in Egypt don’t know exactly what they want either. They just know what they don’t want. They’ve become disaffected enough to rise up and take it on faith that something better will rise from the ashes. At the end of the day, I doubt most parents will take their children out of a system they may have serious reservations about if there’s not a safe and effective and convenient alternative. But if the headlines of the past year are any indication, this system is starting to crash, be it economics, “competition,” lack of equity or whatever else. I’m wondering what we’ll build that will rise up and take its place.
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