By Jason France (aka: the Crazy Crawfish)
The first step is determining if you have a problem. Do any of these sound familiar:
- Is your new Superintendent too young to shave every day, or wear makeup without her mother’s permission?
- Have all your public schools been replaced with virtual terminals that require you to pay by the minute to watch biblical DVDs teaching how to build your own ark in 667 easy steps?
- Are all your new teachers brand new graduates of Ivy League schools?
- Has your Department of Education website been replaced by a giant smiley face and happy sounding Muzak instead of information about how your schools are doing?
- Have all your teachers’ lounges been outfitted with chains and oars and decorated with slogans about rowing together for a Common Core cause. . . or else?
- Are most of the schools serving poor children being closed, so that children can spend additional time reading on 3 hours bus rides and by sharing desks and homework assignments in more compact and stackable environments?
Chances are if you answered yes to one or more of these questions you’ve been invaded by corporate education reformers, or “deformers” as they are more accurately called. Deformers are an invasive and highly destructive species, but with the proper treatment methods they can be controlled and largely eliminated. It will take no small amount of commitment on your part.
In Louisiana, the corporate reform team is being by Deformer-in-Chief, Superintendent John White. The John White hive-mind has infested the Louisiana Department of Education with its TFA offspring, chocking out all of the indigenous state employees. Once a State Department of Education has been infested with deformer ilk, the creatures will expand until they destroy their entire habitat, but they will also make it easier for other parasitic creatures to gain footholds and wreak their own brands of harm.
Deformers can’t stand light, so you will want to shine as much light on their doings, and keep that light focused on them. The mainstream media adores deformers so you will need to create your own media and light source for this effort. In Louisiana we’ve formed a loose coalition of bloggers and tweeters to keep our communities and one another informed. Thanks to social media, regular meetings aren’t necessary, but some group e-mails and the occasional in-person strategy session isn’t a bad idea either.
Deformers can’t stand democracy and adore autocracy. They will try to bypass the public and public oversight as often as possible and seek to influence a few key players to pass mandates and laws with as little input as possible. In Louisiana, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Governor Bobby Jindal pushed though unconstitutional laws, then waged PR propaganda campaigns to try and sway the public and courts to forget how to look words up in a dictionary. Fortunately our teachers unions had the wherewithal and the will to fight these blatant power grabs. By the way: no matter how many times deformers are told “no” by “the people,” they will try to claim that theirs is a grassroots populist movement.
Deformers try to control the local media when they set-up shop. They will provide pithy press releases and misleading reports on a regular basis backing up their agenda. “Deforminators” like you will need to be on-call, ready to challenge these reports as often as deformers produce them. You will need people with a wide variety of backgrounds: teachers, statisticians, policy folks, and parents to refute everything they can come out with. For the more absurd claims it can be helpful to resort to ridicule and parody to show just how ridiculous and unreliable deformer information is. Like a Karate Kid Crane Kid, deformers have no defense against humor and well-executed parody.
Once you’ve established yourselves as credible alternative information sources to government and mainstream media releases you will need to tap into your audience for support. Parents, teachers and community leaders will be eager to help you once they see that they’ve been duped—you just need to show them how.
In Louisiana, we pointed out how our Department of Education was willfully violating student privacy and parental rights by sharing data with inBloom, despite numerous opt-out notifications sent to the state and local superintendents. We provided news clippings detailing these exposures and made ourselves available to media sources willing to cover these violations. Those of us with local community organization contacts brought up these issues, answered questions and helped strategize. We provided information on how to contact local superintendents, board of education members, and state representatives and senators—even members of Congress. Instead of just providing talking points we did our best to truly educate people on these topics and encouraged them to spread the word using their own networks and contacts.
The passion and creativity you can unleash in your own communities by truly educating stakeholders is something even the wealthiest deformers can’t buy.
The Part of Tens
- Communicate early and often. (You never know who will get a tap on the shoulder for an interview so make sure everyone is prepped.)
- Keep deformers off balanced. (Show up with a few dozen parents and students when they least expect it.)
- Respond with the quickness.
- Be the hydra. (If deformers chop off one head, grow two more.)
- Lawyers are your friends, and you will need them since deformers only respect laws you hurt them with.
- Provide guidance, directions and goals to your community contacts.
- Be your own media.
- Persevere. Deformers won’t be owned in a day.
- This will be a 365 day a year job, so make it fun.
- E-mails are great, but the personal touch is still the best.
Jason French, who blogs under the name Crazy Crawfish, is a former employee of the Louisiana Department of Education and a proud public school parent. Visit his blog at http://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/