I went to Philadelphia to attend the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting and to participate in two events.


First, a conversation with Philadelphia parent leader Helen Gym about the current efforts underway to destroy and eliminate public education in that city.


Then, a lecture to the John Dewey Society.


And an evening capped off by dinner with Linda Darling-Hammond and Julian Vasquez Heilig, two of my favorite people.


Now for my report:


The best thing that happened to me was getting to hear Helen Gym talk about the systematic destruction of public education in Philadelphia. Helen is small and beautiful and a fiery speaker. She has three children in the Philadelphia public schools. She painted a bleak picture of politicians in Harrisburg and in Philadelphia who are stripping the public schools of funding while giving tax breaks to corporations and refusing to tax the corporations that are Fracking and destroying the state’s water supply. She described the mass layoffs, the closing of libraries, schools without nurses or counselors or even basic supplies. She had the audience on the edge of their chairs. Frankly, it is hard to believe that the knowing and purposeful elimination of public schools is happening in one of our major cities. Parents are offered a “choice”: they can keep their children in a public school that has been stripped bare, or they can go to a well-resourced charter school. Some choice.


Helen Gym is an inspiration. She should be on Rachel Maddow, on Anderson Cooper, on Stephen Colbert, on Education Nation, on every major network show about what is happening in our big cities. She is a Paul Revere. Every American should know what is happening in Philadelphia. Part of her message, by the way, was to chastise the university-based researchers. She asked them, “Where are you when we need you? We need you now!”


The worst thing that happened to me was that when Helen and I entered the room, it was so crowded that we had to snake our way past people sitting on the floor. I tripped over someone’s foot and fell, managing to get my hands out in front of me to break the fall. Everyone nearby gasped, but thank goodness, the floor was carpeted. What a dramatic entrance! I was up in a flash, no harm done. But it is not what people my age should be doing.