Thursday, November 4, 2010

Obama Administration: Too Much Prescribing of Education Policy-Not Enough Enlisting

Several months ago, I wrote to the North Carolina Democratic Party, the National Democratic Party, and even the Whitehouse to express my concern of the heavy-handed rhetoric coming from the administration regarding teachers. This was just after Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama applauded the firings of the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. The kind of response I received from all three of these entities is demonstrative of why the Democratic Party suffered the great election losses this past Tuesday. They have lost touch with those who voted for them. I received not a single response regarding my concerns, except for requests for campaign contributions. Some would say, “What do you expect? They can’t write every single person who sends them correspondence.” Then how is it that the Republican Party so responsive to those who express concerns?

Over the years, I have written a number of politicians at the state and national level, and I always received some kind of acknowledgement about the concerns I expressed. What’s more, those who have always responded have been Republicans. Republican officer holders from the state level to the US Senate have always responded to any correspondence I sent to them. I wrote to my state representatives, both are Republicans, and I received a personal email from one and a letter from the other. I wrote to the Congressman who represents my district at least three times, and every single time, I received a response. I even wrote our two state US Senators, and both sent a letter acknowledging my concern. What party did all of these belong to? Republican.

I am by no means trying to sell one political party over the other, but the Democratic Party has a serious problem to overcome. It is certainly more complicated than providing a simple response to those who express concern over the direction of their policies. Simply put, “They need to get back in touch with people.” Over the past two years, especially in education policy, there has been too much “prescribing” and not enough “enlisting” of stakeholders in the discussion. You can’t simply dismiss those who disagree with you as “supporting the status quo.” You have a responsibility to try every means necessary to convince them to get on board with your reform. Innovation is not something done to people. According to researchers Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham in their new book The Innovator’s Way: Essential Practices for Successful Innovation, “Innovation is the adoption of new practice in a community.” Without allowing deliberation and discussion, there is going to be little true adoption and by default no innovation.

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