I attended the AASA (American Association of School Administrators) Conference in New Orleans this week. Alas, it was right after Mardi Gras! Fun city! That the annual conference of superintendents of schools. I believe there were about 2000 attendees.
Why was I invited? After all, I’m a lawyer, not a superintendent. I was invited to speak about my new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law. My session went well (more on that later).
This blog is about something else. It’s about the calls—heard from the main stage— that we need to “defend public education.” Why? “Public education is under attack.”
As I listened to this call–repeated by speakers — I was uncomfortable and question this approach. I wonder if we shouldn’t go more positive. I love public education and want it to succeed. But, I’m not into taking a defensive position.
Instead, as I see it, we need to tell a positive story. How about a different slogan: “Public education is better!” How so? For starters. It’s owned by the community. It builds democracy. It gives children the opportunity to learn with all of their peers in their generation. With improved personalized and proficiency based education, it fosters excellence and equity. For many, it cherishes the community and promotes schooling close to home. For example, students with disabilities who are learning activities of daily living (ADL) skills, can practice near home—on local streets, in local stores, with their neighbors. Students can participate in town sports and other activities. Public education is the backbone of our nation. Let’s tout that reality!
Thus, I was happy to hear the welcoming remarks by Gail Pletnick, the new President of AASA. She seems to agree that we need to go positive.. Please visit http://nce.aasa.org/incoming-aasa-president/. She is the superintendent of the Dystert Unified School District in Arizona. Her 15 minute talk led with a positive, success-oriented message. She showed a wonderful video of successful learning going on in her district. I loved that.
She believes that the positive stories of successes in public schools—need to be told. “Investing in public education is investing in our communities and our country.”
I agree and wish her, and our country, much success.