Peter Greene continues the debate about reform, civility, and honesty.
Have critics of the reformers corrupted the debate by being snarky?
Or have reformers corrupted the debate by calling themselves reformers as they seek to strip teachers of job rights and taking money from public schools for religious and private schools?
“We play a lot of games with defining what qualifies as a lie (it depends one what the meaning of “is” is). I say, any time you shade or misrepresent the truth in order to influence, shape or control the behavior of other people, that’s a lie. For me, that also explains what’s wrong with lying– it’s an attempt to take away another person’s ability to make their own informed decision. Lying is destructive because it breaks relationships. It’s wrong because it’s about stealing another person’s freedom to choose.
“How do we react to being lied to?
“Well, when someone lies to you, they are sending some of the following messages:
* I don’t care about you enough to actually show up for this conversation
* I think you’re stupid
* We both know I’m lying, but you’re powerless to do anything about it, so neener neener
* You don’t matter; I’m in charge here
* This is not a real conversation
“Lies, depending on how much power you have in the situation, are somewhere between angering and funny. Depending on how much power you have and your temperament and the history of the relationship involved, you will choose something somewhere between playing along and fighting back. Playing along can either be about resignation or the hope that playing along will eventually lead to real dialogue. Fighting back can be about open aggression, or about snark and sass and sarcasm.
But here’s the most important thing I know about lying.
Lying closes the door to real dialogue. Closes it absolutely and completely.
So maybe snark and sass are a way of breaking that down. Maybe, for me, it’s a way of saying, “Look. I want you to know that I don’t believe that bullshit at all and you can stop shoveling it so we can move on to something else.”
In the education debates, sorting out the players is hard as hell. There are reformsters who I believe are being honest– they just don’t know what they’re talking about. I believe there are others who are looking for good faith ways to improve education. And I believe that there are some who haven’t had an honest word to say about education in years.
“They are not always easy to sort out. New NEA president Lily Eskelson Garcia seems to believe that Arne Duncan is sincere but just wrong. I’m not so sure, but she’s met him face to face, and I have not. like the majority of teachers, I’ve got to make these judgments from home, from words on a screen. And not everyone is so obviously full of it as She Who Will Not Be Named or the various lying hucksters pushing charters to make a buck…..
“Sometimes a lie is so outlandish that the truth sounds like mockery, and I think many parts of the conversation have sailed way past that point. There’s no way to respond to something like “We will get better teachers in classrooms by removing job security for the profession” that doesn’t sound like snark. There’s no way to inject honesty and truth into a discussion of using testing to measure teacher effectiveness without making proponents of VAM sound foolish. If the emperor has no clothes on, there’s no way to have an honest conversation of his wardrobe that doesn’t leave him feeling naked.
“To move forward, we need honesty more than we need niceness. The people who have injected large lies into the conversation have raised the bar for how tough honesty is going to be (which is often the point of making the big lie), but we can’t be afraid to go there. We can’t make the mistake of matching lies with lies; reformsters are not brain-damaged fiends who drink the blood of children under a full moon. But if pointing out the truth is going to feel ugly and snarky and sassy, we can’t be afraid to do it. Honesty is an essential navigating tool for finding our way out of this sea of strife and confusion.
A civil conversation requires honesty. And the conversation these days about charter schools — and, indeed, about tenure and test-based teacher evaluation and seniority and vouchers and standards and just about every other education policy on the table today — is anything but honest.”.