The timing of last weekend’s Save Our Schools march in Washington, D.C., turned out to be awful. The summer heat was brutal. And the media’s attention was focused almost exclusively on the debt ceiling circus.
Only a few thousand marchers turned out, and news coverage was spotty, with a speech by actor Matt Damon getting most of the attention. The Washington Post covered the event and so did Education Week, of course. The Salt Lake Tribune and Baltimore Sun wrote about local teachers who participated. The New York Times apparently let it pass without notice.
There was quite a bit of after-the-fact analysis, however. Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post devoted several supportive columns to the march. Dana Goldstein, in The Nation, contrasted Damon’s speech with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s recent address to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. (Near the bottom she links to her extraordinary American Prospect article from April about a Colorado school district that’s using tests to evaluate even gym and art teachers. Read this for a scary look at the future of education reform).
Some SOS supporters were tweeting insults at Kevin Carey’s analysis on the Education Sector website. The heat may have made him a little crankier than usual, but Carey makes good points. March participants risk putting themselves on the margins when they demonize Arne Duncan and Bill Gates and ignore public support for testing and charter schools.
But the U.S. Department of Education appeared equally clueless when it posted a response to the march from a teacher who’s working temporarily at the department. The post reads like a big, sloppy kiss for Duncan – producing a flood of online comments from infuriated teachers and SOS supporters.
So what happens next? According to Education Week, the SOS organizers plan to keep the movement going, and that’s a good thing. This was, after all, a true grass-roots event with a clear set of guiding principles. It was put together on the fly by relatively unknown teachers, activists and bloggers who are passionate supporters of public schools and teachers. Their voices should be heard – somehow.