The current state of US politics may be an important lesson for us especially in how we move our education system forward.
I always thought a tea party was something you looked forward to but in the US it’s the name of a deeply conservative and reactionary political movement.
In 2009, they launched their manifesto to ‘reclaim America’s heritage of liberty and self-governance.’ In a nutshell the tea party movement wants to undo the Obama initiatives – cut taxes, shrink government, privatise health and stop legislation aim at social reform. For education it means more testing and market driven reforms.
Interestingly, there is no clear leader of the party and no clear target to respond to. This is a grass-roots movement but Sarah Palin is not far from its centre.
From an outsider’s perspective, it is a pity to see the damage being done to the current legislative program. There seems to be no middle ground or compromise and I can’t help reflecting on the events of the past year in Australia and the political shift that has taken place. The politics of fear is a powerful wedge.
A lot of US educators find it hard to maintain optimism against a backward looking agenda. While there are concerns that Obama’s Race to the Top program focuses on accessing funding through competitive grants, at least these grants respond to local needs. There is real concern over the state of most American schools and lack of leadership on how to fix the problems.
A new film has just been released in the US called Waiting for Superman, which takes the view that most American schools are failing and much of the blame lies with teacher unions. The film has sparked a lot of negative comment about schools. Much criticism but little by way of what to do to solve the issue.
The current US political landscape is no Wonderland; hopefully our new Minister for Schools, Peter Garrett is taking note.