Sunday, April 17, 2016

Making Noise (and Possibly Detractors)

It's a funny thing, this public education advocacy.  There are many of us, locally, and nationwide, representing all kinds of issues and viewpoints. 

But, with the advent of corporate ed reform, there are now new players, most of the funded by the big fish (people like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Alice Walton, etc.)  They create these faux groups that just pop up as if they have existed forever and yet they can only point to a few - seemingly token - parents or teachers.

But regular advocates forge on without that kind of financial backing or big name firepower.  Our coin of the realm is that biggest, widest picture on issues.  Many in corporate ed reform hate it.  They need to get something done and so, put their side in a pretty frame where the frame covers half the picture. 

Since most of us regular advocates traffic in the truth with real data and real outcomes (just as the other side does sometimes), well, the truth has the ability to get people to pay attention. 

Case in point is this story of Heather Hicks, a parent and teacher in Lacey Township, New Jersey.  Ms Hicks came before her school board to talk about Edgenuity, another Pearson online "learning" program that her son was using.  The story comes from a group I am a proud member of, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.  It comes with a video that Ms. Hicks made that I hope you watch. 

Ms. Hicks is one person and yet she had a big impact on her school board's actions. 

That made Bruce Friend, the COO of iNACOL (the International Association of K-12 Online Learning) very unhappy.  Mr. Friend gave two workshops in Feb. that were to be about gaining "stakeholder support as you build a blended (or online) learning program.  We will share strategies in gaining the support of these key contacts; discuss barriers to gaining support; and share examples of the consequences when stakeholder support is not achieved.

Ms. Hicks only knew about what Mr. Friend said because several attendees at the conference sought her out.  They must have been very concerned to try to track down a single parent to tell her what was being said about her at this conference.

(You may recall that iNACOL is the company whose CEO said, in a YouTube video, that online learning was the "Trojan horse for education reform."  They are also funded by the Walton and Gates foundations. It's also a member of ALEC.) 

However, Mr. Friend made the focus of his talks about one person - Ms. Hicks.
It is difficult to conceive of how effective strategies for gaining parent support would include attacking concerned parents by name, (although at the second forum he mistakenly called her “Heather Micks.”)  He showed a screen shot of her face taken from the school board presentation, and accused her of being ignorant about the purported benefits of blended learning and technology.  He said she “killed just about three and half years of work” with her presentation, in which she had refused to “let the facts get in the way of the truth.”  He also revealed her son’s log-in data in the Edgenuity program – a violation of his personal privacy by both him and presumably Pearson – and suggested that the school board should have shut off her microphone.
Ms. Hicks' video shows both her and him, giving their presentations.  You'll note Ms. Hicks is quite calm and rational and, at the end of it, one Board member thanks her profusely.   Friend misrepresents many of her points and what she actually said.

Mr. Friend tried to suggest her child was not very bright and that "she didn't let facts get in the way of a good story." 

I don't know if Ms. Hicks talked to anyone at iNACOL about what Mr. Friend said about her and her presentation.  But it could not have been easy to watch him speak about her.

I had a similar experience recently.  There was a blog thread written about me that challenged my racial background and, taking several things I had written about, basically called what I had written, racism.

Aand for the second time, a man has called out where I live and how much my house is worth (although I told my realtor and he laughed and said, "good luck.")  Again, when someone says that about you it sounds like someone saying, "I know where you live."  I find that very creepy. 

For people who are lashing out and being creepy, I am not going to explain my racial background nor explain where I brought up and what that has brought to my understanding of the world.  If there are those who want to make ignorant assumptions, that's on them. 

I am certainly not going to apologize for where I live in Seattle - we bought near where where my husband could walk or bike to work at the UW.  In his last months of life, he took his car as he could barely walk.

I am not going to explain how hard my husband worked for our life and our home despite coming to this country as an immigrant when he was nine years old and knew not a word of English. 

Some seem to think that because I write this blog that my life should be an open book.  I don't believe that to be true.  I sometimes toss out things about myself to make a point but beyond that, I'm not the point of this blog.

But I do believe that no one should stoop to the level of making up misinformation because they fear another person's words.

I mean, I figure this person wrote that thread because somehow, there was a fear that my voice was too large (presumably on the charter school issue.)  What would be some way to stop that voice? Let's go personal because clearly, arguing on the issues wasn't necessarily working.

That person even challenge the folks over at The Stranger about listening to me.  Here's the thing I know about The Stranger.  They can smell BS from a mile off.  If they had any doubts about me, they would not be in contact with me nor would they quote me. 

What seems to have been forgotten is that I'm not a new person on the scene.  I have taken more than a decade - year in and year out - doing the hard work that is public education advocacy.  Going to meetings all over the city, reaching out to groups and people from all over the city for interviews, doing research, marching and protesting - all of that I have done.  ( I even went to visit charter schools in other states because Washington state didn't have them at that time.  I didn't have to waste vacation time doing that but I did so because I wanted to be sure I had done my due diligence on my six-part series on charters which is right on the homepage of this blog.) 

Again, this blog is about issues.  Attacking people personally and especially, in the case of Ms. Hicks, making inferences about her child and violating her child's data privacy, is wrong.