Tea Party agenda

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.

2 thoughts on “Tea Party agenda

  1. Greg, you might be interested in a blog post by Dan Brown, a teacher at the SEED Public Charter School, one of the schools celebrated in the film, Waiting for Superman. I was inspired by his ‘answers’ as to why some charter schools ‘work’. The positive outcomes highlighted in Brown’s post are summed up in a single phrase:

    “I love my job teaching English at SEED.”

    Brown’s observations are based around the role of the teachers, but more importantly, how teachers are supported, encouraged and developed by administrators and the schools to which they belong. I have taken from this post some valuable insights & it is one I recommend those in leadership read.

    1. Frances, thanks for the link to Dan’s blog. His experience at SEED is a good example of what Michael Fullan calls intelligent accountability in ‘All Systems Go’. It is the ability to build cumulative capacity and responsibility in a way that is non-judgmental, transparent and professionally rewarding for individuals as well as the team. As Helen Timperley says so often, if principals see their teachers as ‘their class’ then the support and feedback provided must be aimed at challenging, developing and improving on the practice of each teacher using data/feedback. Isn’t this what we strive to do for our students?

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