Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Updated: Jennifer Jennings (formerly Eduwonkette) apologizes to Secretary Duncan over the booing at AERA

I have heard this before; critiques from the people in power or their apologists saying “why can’t you be more civilized.”  In my mind, it is similar to a well-equipped army that invades your country, takes over your institutions, and then argues with the natives that their resistance is not “civilized” enough. ... Leonie Haimson
Jennifer Jennings is one of my favorite people of all time even though I disagree with almost every word in Jennifer's apology to Duncan which today surprised the world of long-term Real Reform activists battling ed deform. One commentator used the term, "bizarre."

Given Jennifer's former superstar status when she blogged anonymously as Eduwonkette from Sept. 2007 to Aug. 2008 and through her final post in Jan. 2009 under her own name, this was somewhat of a bombshell.

I wouldn't classify this, as some may have, as the reverse of the Ravitch desertion of the ed deform camp but Jennifer's absence from the public discourse over the past 4 years has made people forget just how important she was in debunking so much ed deform in a very short time, to such an extent that a nationwide witch hunt was on to find out her identity, with some of Joel Klein's minions jumping in to attack her on a regular basis.

I haven't seen or heard from Jennifer in years but though I disagree with her here I still consider her a friend. We shared a whole bunch of times together. She attended some ICE meetings and tested out her blog on me before going public and I was one of the very few who knew her identity. We were together when we heard Joel Klein got the Broad Award (she punched me in the arm in frustration). The only AERA conference I attended was here in NY because of her. I posted about Jennifer in Jan. 2009 when she "came" out and I was the first blogger to post about her right after her first blog post came out. She went viral soon after.

But I will talk more about why this story is so interesting and include other reactions in a follow-up and include some thoughts.

If you want to catch up on Eduwonkette's work, here are the links to her initial blog and the one after she was picked up by Edweek.

Ravitch comments here:  Why Did Educators Boo Duncan? Jennings Apologizes.

Before I post any more, read what Jennifer had to say at Edweek.

Published Online: May 6, 2013

An Apology to Secretary Duncan

By Jennifer Jennings 

Premium article access courtesy of Edweek.org.

I agree with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on just about nothing. I think Race to the Top is an evidence-free mess. I think the idea of a test worth teaching to is a willful misunderstanding of the science of testing. And I can’t agree with Duncan’s insistence that the cheating scandals that have garnered widespread attention in recent months are a parable about “rotten” school cultures and not a reflection on the incentives that we’ve forced upon teachers. 

But as I sat on the floor of a packed ballroom in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association last week, I was embarrassed—no, humiliated—that some of my colleagues booed the secretary of education when he approached the microphone for his keynote speech. It is one thing to disagree with some of the Obama administration’s policies, to bring countervailing data to the table, and to engage in reasoned—and, one would hope, enlightened—conversation. It is another thing entirely to abdicate our most sacred responsibility as researchers—a commitment to ideas, to data, to truth, to real debate—at the altar of one-upmanship. 

“I was embarrassed—no, humiliated—when some of my colleagues booed the secretary of education when he approached the microphone for his keynote speech.”

What saddens me is that the educational policy debate has become an overwhelming chorus of boos, of shout-downs, and of bitter personal insults, rather than a real debate about ideas and data and first principles. Unfortunately, this mirrors the direction that most American political debates have leaned in recent years. It is toxic. It is unnecessary. And it is not befitting of a community of researchers who stand in front of students on most days of the week and call ourselves educators. 

I have no senior standing, official office, or public mandate with which to offer this apology, but nonetheless: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that a faceless minority of the educational research community lacked the courage to meet you with ideas rather than with the heckling that is so easy to deploy when you are sitting among hundreds of others, none of whom will ever be called personally to account for their actions. 

You had the grace, the guts, and the patience not to reciprocate.
If there is one lesson from this conference, Secretary Duncan, you showed America’s educational researchers that we can have a different debate—one in which we rely on ideas and open disagreement and reason, and not on schoolyard bravado.

Jennifer Jennings is an assistant professor of sociology at New York University. She is the former author of Education Week's eduwonkette blog.

1 comment:

  1. There's an old saying..."With friends like that, who needs enemies." It's hard to find her post as genuine when she basically thinks Duncan is an open-mined man who will listen "if only we would convey our ideas". Haven't we done that?? Duncan is the biggest bully when it comes to public school teachers and yet she describes him as someone with "grace and guts". I think your friend has moved to the dark side the same way Gotham Schools turned their back on us. All I can say is "BOO!!"


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