Tie And Jeans

Students can’t be Silent Shareholders

Ira is smart, passionate and articulate. I don’t know how I found SpeEdChange, but I’m certain that my own teaching (not to mention blogging) would be far more shallow without his relentless drive for humane schools and student choice.

Every time Ira posts, I grab a great quote to retweet, but those never fit out under the 140 character tweet limit.

This gem is from his most recent reflection on the UVA drama, hightail the fundamental cost incurred when a formerly public space surrenders all other concerns to efficiency and profit. It’s a broad post, with far more to say than just this little quote, but it grabbed me nonetheless.

If your school or school dis­trict or divi­sion seeks to be some­thing other than an insti­tu­tion of social repro­duc­tion and wealth preser­va­tion, then it must not just say “no” to cor­po­rate inten­tions but also “no” to teach­ers or admin­is­tra­tors say­ing “no” to change in order to pre­serve their own com­fort.

Ira’s point about decision making and conflict within schools is easy to miss, since it hides inside one of those most tempting self-deceptions for educators. All those people who disagree with me, they just want to preserve their own comfort!

The most enduring lesson I learned from John Carlstroem (another amazing educator who seems to exist entirely off the twitter/blog grid) is to “assume good will” when working with fellow educators. If everyone is around the table in order to produce the best outcome for students, then eventually all conflicts are solvable. All arguments can be settled by clearly exploring which options are best for the children in question, or so the theory goes.

When this assumption breaks down, as I’ve seen happen more than once over the last 8 years, is when different sides approach the question of what is best for students from wildly divergent perspectives. Instead of solving a specific problem, these arguments around “what’s best for students” are overwhelmed by doctrinal statements or third hand research citations. All that fruitless fury, all that drama when the primary source is sitting right outside in the hallways!

Ira’s quote reminds me that my claims to be “student centered” need to be backed up with conversations and decision making by actual students, or it’s just another co-opted “21st century” buzzword. When educators argue about what’s best for students, it will often seem like the other side is out to preserve their own comfort. But unless the discussion has empowered student voices at the center, then that charge is equally applicable to all the adults involved.

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