Friday, January 30, 2015

The Slogan War

I know it has been some time since my last blog and I hope you will forgive my absence from the blogosphere.  I’ve been a little busy, but mostly I’ve been just trying to keep my head down and my mouth shut (I have the right to remain silent, but not the ability).  Furthermore, with bloggers like my friends Claudia Swisher, Rick Cobb (formerly OKeducationtruths), Rob Miller, Brett Dickerson, and Blue Cereal banging away at the keyboard all the really good topics where completely covered.  That was until today.  I, and a bunch of other first year superintendents, attended the State Board of Education meeting fulfilling a requirement in what Dr. Ann Caine of Stillwater calls Superintendent’s Kindergarten.  I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t think it would be as contentious as it was four years ago, but I also didn’t know it would go so smoothly.  My friends….. what a difference leadership makes.

I have said all along that Oklahoma public education has been losing a slogan war.  The anti-public education crowd has had us playing defense for the better part of my 17 year career.  It started with “All kids can learn” and then morphed to “No Child Left Behind”.  From there we have heard politicians bloviate with “hold our schools accountable” so that now they claim without fear from reprisal that “our schools are failing”.  The school choice people have now started referring to public schools as “government schools” instead of public schools.  Why?  Because it is a better slogan and allows them to refer to public schools as “monopoly schools”. Some even go to calling us “drop out factories”.    For far too long, Oklahoma public education officials have played defense in the slogan war.  But our silence has stopped as Supt. Hofmeister openly embraced social media with her #OKhigh5 slogan. Declaring once and for all that every Oklahoma child deserves to have the very best education provided by the very best educators. #OKhigh5 calls for the end of the shortest educational calendar in the region and shines a spotlight on the more than 500 classrooms with an emergency certified teacher …..what a difference leadership makes.

I refer to this onslaught of words as the slogan war because its sole purpose is to destroy public schools and not to help the children of Oklahoma.  It is a carefully crafted money grab.  I firmly believe that the majority of education reformers are less interested in helping your child get a better education and more interested in helping their child get a cheaper education.  But I honestly believe the tide is changing.  Oklahoma now has a leader….an advocate for ALL of Oklahoma’s children.  Supt. Hofmeister has always held firm to the Oklahoma conservative belief that parents not only have the right, but an obligation to make a quality educational choice for their child.  The difference here is that she doesn’t think you have to destroy one to make the other better.  What a difference leadership makes.