“Parents claim they have the right to shape the school curriculum. They don’t.” Sit with that for a minute. It’s the headline of a Washington Post “perspective,” by two people who have received high marks from Randi Weingarten’s union. Their writing is no surprise, of course, and it’s un-credible. Still, saying that “sudden push for parental rights, then, isn’t a response to substantive changes in education or the law. It’s a political tactic.” As Commentary Magazine columnist Christine Rosen puts it, “They liken today’s parents to Richard Hofstadter’s description of conservatives and their ‘paranoid style,’ with their ‘heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.’” Of course it’s a lie, she says. She cogently explains the evolution of parent ire brilliantly in her piece. Read it.
I’m a little disappointed for other reasons. One of the authors was once an anonymous blogger who used to work for the teachers union named EduShyster (fitting). She revealed herself in 2013 when she put out a public call on Twitter for funds to allow her to attend the CER 20th Anniversary Gala and Awards Show in WDC. The Chicago Teachers union responded, and we decided to give Jennifer Berskire a free ticket, and a chance to sit and learn from the best education choicers in the nation, like Derrell Bradford. We didn’t change her mind and she didn’t change hers but she was thankful to see and learn that we care about kids, too.
In 2015, Berkshire’s experience with us was highlighted in Politico’s Morning Education. They wrote:
The “former editor for the American Federation of Teachers unmasked herself in September of 2013 and began to spend more time meeting reformers face-to-face. To her surprise, she found she liked them. And admired their passion. Suddenly, it wasn’t so easy to mock them in her blog. ‘It’s much harder to have ed-reform ballistics when you’re looking someone in the eye,’ Berkshire told Morning Education. One of her epiphanies… ‘When I first started writing, I was very quick to argue that people advocating a reform agenda were in it for the money.’ Now, she said, she’s realized that while movements and motivations may ‘look like monoliths from the outside,’ in reality they’re more complex and ‘far more diverse.’”
Oh Jennifer, we had such high hopes for you! Writing missives suggesting parents who want to help their children succeed are just pawns of Republican politicians, hardly recognizes the complexity of people, and their motivations, don’t you think? Could it be that, because parents were finally woken from their apathy over continued failing achievement, broken schools and inequitable systems when they were given a tragic, first hand look at “education by bureaucracy” during Covid, that they are now fighting for what is rightly theirs?
We’ve seen this movie before. Decades of failing scores, lack of strong content, schools ignoring parents’ concerns… teachers frustrated that could not instruct nor engage with students with materials and approaches they knew best — yep — that started the charter school movement, which in just 30 years has turned around schools, communities and states.
And with that same intensity brewing today, and bureaucracies staying firm that they know best, the education tide is changing again, this time incorporating a myriad of policy changes that make parents the driver of their children’s education. With 14 new programs enacted in the last 12 months alone, I’m predicting another wave of educational change that will put parents in charge, where they belong.