A Sentence that Captures So Much About Education Reform

naacp randi

Over at WonkBlog, Max Ehrenfreund wrote this sentence:

… public education is an issue that sets two important Democratic constituencies against each other: school teachers and advocates for civil rights.

At first I read the sentence and thought nothing of it: it is common knowledge that many civil rights groups disagree with unions about issues such as standardized testing and choice.

Then I re-read the sentence and realized what was novel about the sentence: it was the fact that “school teachers” was used instead of “unions.”

For some reason, I don’t always think of a union as a collection of school teachers.

But this is of course what a union is.

I’m really not sure what to make of this, but it’s an interesting world where two groups of people generally considered to be fighting the good progressive fight – teachers and civil rights groups – find themselves on opposite sides of key educational issues.

On very important issues, the representatives of teachers and the representatives of civil rights organizations fundamentally disagree about how to best educate African-American and Hispanic students.

Again, none of this novel: but sometimes the turn of a phrase can drive home a reality.

For me, it was striking to see school teachers, rather than unions, being set against civil rights groups.

Lastly, I do think it’s worth emphasizing that the disagreements between teachers and civil rights groups are about strategy rather than desired outcomes.

I’m confident that teachers and civil rights advocates want the same thing for minority children.

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