Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Commentary on the Keegan/Darling-Hammond Debate

I'm glad Sean Ahern joined me (two older guys in a sea of 20-somethings) at the Linda/Lisa Obama/McCain ed advisor debate webcast sponsored by NYCORE at NYU last night.

The actual debate was at Teachers College a few miles north. Glad it was as I was ready to run up and strangle them both. Lisa and her trumpeting of the Klein/Sharpton/Rhee EEP's was despicable. But Linda was fairly hapless in her responses, especially when she sidestepped Lisa's attempt to pull her into the "TFA is wo
nderful" trap. The host of the NYU session, Bree Picower, pointed to the NYCORE focus this year on making the Neo-liberal connections to the ed debate. Lois Weiner has written extensively on this and was the featured speaker at one of our Teachers Unite forums last year and she will be doing a session with Meghan Behrent (TJC and ISO) at an upcoming forum. Sean nails many of the points that were nagging at me during the debate. But first a few caveats. I am guessing the term "liberal" Sean uses more commonly refers to Democratic Party liberals, often misnamed as "the left," which is not the real left, who are just as disparaging of this group as Republicans. Neo-liberals in the classic European sense, so aptly dealt with by Naomi Klein in "The Shock Doctrine" are total free marketers and just off the edge of neo-conservatives. The neo-liberal world wide agenda with respect to education is not just esoteric stuff we're spouting but has a direct impact on what is going on in your classrooms. Understanding this stuff becomes increasingly important to explain the role unions like the AFT/UFT and NEA play in this scenario, all too often lining up on the wrong side.

Heeeeere's Sean

The achievement gap was trotted out early on as the games began. Which team would control the ball? True to form Lisa positioned herself behind NCLB and the "civil rights community" who supported uniform assessments. (Test score inequality is now the only form of inequality considered legitamate for media attention, that is unless poor Black and Latino homeowners are being blamed for the financial crisis)

Linda pooh poohed the notion of filling in bubble sheets. Lisa quickly turned the tables on the liberals. All those flaky alternative assessments are just liberal glosses over the gap, and it's the gap (stupid!) that needs to be reduced. Will the liberals be hoisted on their own petard? Pre-school education for all countered Linda bravely. Lisa countered, where's the evidence supporting the additional $ for pre-school? Where are the test scores! Show me the money. in neo liberal neo conservative America, test scores are equated as proof of value added or value lost. Finally, corporate cost accounting has landed on the head of the educrat nincompoops. Everyone can see how well corporate accounting has served the nation, why not extend it to education?

Linda countered but tepidly, pointing to the success of NJ which lead the way in school funding reform, granting equal state funding to all schools in the Garden State. She only stuck a toe in this big pond. Why not take a dive in?

My question, How can the 'achievement gap be reduced when the wealth gap and the race gap widens? Why are educators heeding, in effect, Cheney's favorite injunction to "stay in their lane" and not making connections? Linda Darling Hammond barely acknowledged the connection in her reference to NJ. Isn't making connections what educators are supposed to do ? And if the leaders of education won't make the connections, then who will?

Lisa lined up with Rhee in DC and NYC with thinly veiled union bashing, but no mention of Chicago's much longer 'reform 'effort? Why?

Could it be that Bill Ayers might come up as one of the proponents of Chicago's reform? Oops, that's not part of the script since McCain is using Ayers to bash Obama. But before all the liberals line up to defend Ayers supposed redemption through educational service, think twice. Ayers was wrong about the "Revolution" in 1968, and yes folks, he's wrong again about school "reform" in Chicago. Like Mr Magoo, Ayers makes a mess of everything wherever he goes but always comes out on top and always manages to be the center of media attention. Are we being played again by a media show that features false leaders, pushes them forward as the change agents, thereby discrediting change or even revolution in society and in education?



  1. Yes, Lisa scored a few zingers. But Linda's performance has to be seen in the context of

    >the McCain policy being the V word set to a three-note tune. None too complicated.

    >The "Who has Obama's ear?" game.

    >The "Be careful about what I promise to do. Because I may actually win" dilemma.

    The panel discussion afterwards was much better.


  2. You mean there was a panel discussion on the web cast? Sorry I missed it. We had a brief discussion at NYU.

  3. The panel discussion was a post-game analysis of the debate which became available on the webcast the next day.



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