Wise County blogger Brian Knox wrote a post, well-intentioned but perhaps off target, following a meeting about CSCOPE hosted by Alice Linahan of Women on the Wall. Knox expressed sadness at the direction of focus and level of rhetoric, and advocated a spirit of dialogue between concerned parents and activists and local educators.
However, though Knox is surely right that parents and activist handling of CSCOPE is uncomfortable, their outrage is also exactly what the doctor ordered.
It must be said at the start, Knox never justified the promise of his article’s title, “Why the tea party should be CSCOPE’s biggest advocate”. He made some points about good school district people with good intentions, but he never connected them to CSCOPE, and he never addressed CSCOPE’s undisputed malfeasance or why parents are anything but wise and loving for wanting to chase CSCOPE out of the state.
Knox had some well-taken points.
He pointed out that there are many good people in education that really want to fix things, as has always been the case. Knox said that politicians don’t care about fixing education. Though perhaps harsh, it leads to the correct conclusion, namely that successful centralized state management of education is impossible. We have nothing but proof of that fact.
Politicians are constrained by the political process and, as Knox points out, will always need to win political battles first. Unfortunately, the political process usually mangles tools designed to reform entrenched power, an outcome we are safe to assume the politicians wish wasn’t the case, but aren’t willing to start losing every battle on account of.
Knox lamented the idea of putting pressure on school boards to hire a Superintendent that will get rid of CSCOPE. For him it is too confrontational and misses the point of empowering local educators.
Is that correct, though?
There isn’t a single anti-CSCOPE parent or taxpayer that doesn’t want control of education to leave Austin. They want parents to be able to choose where to send their kids, and they want schools to have to compete for students.
The main thing standing in the way of that is the power of the state education bureaucracy.
It simply isn’t realistic to think we can have meaningful local control without breaking the status quo, in which teacher and school board associations constantly compete for state money, and states compete for federal money. In this way, an already inflexible and politicized system gives up essential control.
The progressive standards and dysfunctional teaching system generated by this process is the part that parents and concerned citizens cannot abide.
The real enemy of fixing the system is insufficient motivation for parents and taxpayers to take on the fight. And, as long as the debate temperature stays low, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the ideas being discussed are; the status quo will simply roll over the noise.
CSCOPE has committed sins that are impossible to ignore or forgive – so much so that ignoring this fact is a sure ticket to bringing one’s seriousness, and possibly one’s intentions, into question.
CSCOPE’s arrogance and incompetence were unforgivable, and along the way they generated some attention-grabbing nuggets for marketing education reform to parents and taxpayers. These troops must be recruited, and they perfectly aligned at the deepest levels with altruistic educators to change the fight in favor of reform.
We live with a million things competing for our attention. That isn’t going to change. For something to attract a crowd to a cause it had better have some fireworks around it. In these circumstances being sweet and calm and easy is as good as giving up. We may prefer it, but this approach doesn’t move entrenched power.
Charged-up parents and taxpayers educating about CSCOPE are recruiting troops to education reform that are needed for many battles.
– Wise County blogger post
Weston Hicks researches and writes about associations in the Texas political realm, media choices, and political strategy. He has a B.A. in History from the University of Texas at El Paso and a J.D. from University of Texas School of Law. He enjoys spending time with his wife and four children, reading theology and political theory, and watching FC Barcelona. You can reach him at email@example.com.