George Lucas Educational Foundation
Education Trends

Should We Engage in the Politics of Education?

    Many would agree that Americans tend to view education as the pathway to success. In school we're taught rags-to-riches tales about individuals rising to the top as a result of their academic success, regardless of their race, income level, or gender. There's an inherent belief that our education system should create equal access to a quality education for all.

    However, those aspirations don't match the reality. Many children, in fact, do not have equal access to quality education. These issues set the stage for this week's #edchat on Twitter.

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    Many educators argued in the chat that disparities in funding cause this inequality, while others argued that the true cause of inequality lies in the hands of administrators that filter innovative technologies/teaching methods that have the ability to combat funding deficits. Whatever your opinion may be, one has to ask the question: "As educators, should we engage in the politics of education to truly make a difference?"

    We asked Tim Furman (@tbfurman), a tech specialist, who shook things up in #edchat to summarize.

    --Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

    Tuesday's #edchat brought together educators interested in the question: "How can we provide equal access to quality education for all?" For me, the question is freighted with vague terms, such as the meaning of the words "quality" and "equal." For that matter, is there a consensus on the meaning of the term "education" and what it means in a free-market democracy? I can think of at least a dozen constituencies that would have markedly different visions of a quality public education, the question of equal access notwithstanding.

    Let's face it, it's an edgy topic for #edchat, and the resulting conversation revealed significant differences of opinion, which in my mind is the hallmark of a worthwhile conversation.

    Many participants agreed on this basic assertion:

    Cybraryman1 RT @nlubrano: Agreed RT @rkiker I believe good teacher make edu happen regardless of resources.

    I, too, agree with this idea. It is both conventional wisdom and a radical assertion, because politically speaking, it's a good argument for cutting education funding to the lowest level at which there is any evidence of successful teaching. I bet if I set up a wiki where teachers could volunteer their districts, charter schools, or private schools for funding reductions, that wiki would get fewer hits than my blog. And that's saying something!

    I do believe that successful teaching occurs at all levels of the economy, but as a matter of policy, I don't think it's wise to ignore the reality that the disparity of investment has huge consequences in the aggregate, and that this disparity is largely invisible on the accountability side of public education policy.

    It was truly an action-packed #edchat, possibly a little out of the ambient zone of #edchats past, but definitely worth the time. As usual, respect for others' opinions carried the day?a hallmark of the #edchat community. I'd like to hear from others. Are topics like these good for the community? Should we revisit the political side of education, or should we stay in-house, as it were?

    Tim Furman is a technology specialist in suburban Chicago, working in an open-source 1:1 netbook program. Since 1986, he has served as a teacher, a media specialist, a local union president, and as an administrator, working in both the public and private sectors. Currently blogging at School TechConnect, he focuses on "bringing technology to bear on politics, policy, and practice in education." He shares his ideas on "micro-lobbying" with educators around Illinois, and hosts a weekly webcast, The Twitterstop.