There are two things I hoped to hit on in this post and I have struggled with whether I can sensibly connect the two. The two: 1) being bulldozed and the helpless feeling it brings and 2) the need to stop the bulldozer. So, as you read, it may be a little disjointed.
The first thing comes from a book I am currently reading, The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time by Gordon Lafer. In this quote, Lafer refers to information from a book by Martin Gilens titled Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.
Gilens’s results are bracing: elected officials respond almost exclusively to the views of the wealthiest 10 percent of the population. Average citizens have no independent sway over elected officials, and even when the bottom 70 percent of the population disagrees with the wealthiest 10 percent, it is the elites’ view that most often wins out. “The preferences of the vast majority of Americans,” Gilens concludes, “appear to have essentially no impact on which policies the government does or doesn’t adopt.”
I am not in the ranks of the wealthiest 10 percent. Don’t even come close. If you are reading this, I doubt you are in those ranks either. We are being bulldozed. Apparently, expressing our preferences has little to no impact on policies adopted by our elected officials. Many parents have found this to be the case with regard to education policy. The more people that get involved, the less likely they will be able to be bulldozed… or it will become embarrassing evident that is what is happening.
A few months back I read an article called K-12: Does Anyone Care That Kids Cry?. A few descriptions stood out for me—bystander effect, Common Core syndrome, and passive witnesses. And I noted one quote, “We know from plenty of experience that nobody will complain.”
With a lot of education issues it appears that this may hold true even though there are many parents and advocates who complain and are actively working to change things for the better. There will need to be more parents and advocates involved to block the bulldozing voices decision makers listen to—corporate entities, foundations, nonprofits, special interest groups, and influential wealthy individuals. It is clear to many that decisions made about education issues are not made based on what parents express they want for this kids.
Even though there are a lot of parents actively involved out there, at times it may be lonely and frustrating for them. Here is what one of my correspondents shared with me in an email:
I have been a self learner now for at least five years trying to reach competency in understanding how to intervene in the “progressive educationists movement” to change the world order by controlling the education system. I have yet to find a way to successfully intervene in the minds of the apathetic parent, family member, school official, Legislator, teacher, or school board member who does not want to hear the truth. They refuse to become learned because it is too hard or they don’t have the time to dedicate to it. They don’t want to hear what is too hard to believe and accept because it may require them to act. They are comfortable living in their little cocoons. Unfortunately they have chosen to place their belief and trust in those who would take away their freedom, liberties, and self governance.
I can say that there are times when I wish I had remained ignorant and apathetic because of the feelings of being helpless to affect change.
How do we get more people informed and actively involved? I don’t have the answer to this. The voices and actions of more parents and community members are needed. Attend school board meetings, attend other education related meetings, write letters to the editor, meet and communicate with your legislators, etc.—those are all good things that many folks already do. Get more people involved one person at a time. Don’t just publicize a meeting and encourage people to attend and speak out, invite someone you know to join you in attending or participating in a related activity.
If more people are involved it will make it more difficult for their voices to be ignored. We do care that kids are crying and harmed by many education reform measures. Help those you know move from being bystanders and passive witnesses to become actively involved with a voice to be heard.