Leading Source

Rhetoric around America’s biggest issues don’t always fall along party lines

alice-wonderland“Curiouser and Curiouser” – those words from Alice and Wonderland  popped into my mind today as I read page A8 of Monday’s New York Times.

First there was the story about the head of a major political party, who said of the war in Afghanistan: “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in…. “that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Asia.”

Green Party Platform?  Musings of the (new, old, resuscitated) Left? No. Michael Steele chairman of the Republican National Committee, letting his thoughts run on. And on. His GOP colleagues, understandably, were not amused.

Then, on to education and to Column Five:

“Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said at the union’s annual conference in New Orleans.

And just who’s responsible for this “three- anti” environment? A Democratic president, and a House and Senate both controlled by Democrats. For the first time since 1994.

What’s going on here? With Steele, the malapropisms are sort of par for the course. And yet, both the Steele and NEA stories show how opinions on many of the toughest and most complex issues of the day – here war in Afghanistan and the new muscular federal role in education — don’t divide conveniently along party lines.

Neither President Obama nor Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended this year’s NEA convention – unusual, to say the least, for a Democratic administration.  Though Duncan tried to play down the divide, many teachers feel they are being blamed unfairly for the problems confronting public education.

It all relates to a story I just finished for September’s ASBJ about the controversy in Central Falls, R.I., where the Board of Trustees fired the entire staff of the districts only high school – in accordance with the “turnaround model” authorized by Duncan – but later shifted back to a different model of reform. Both Obama and Duncan praised both the board’s tough action in firing the staff and its subsequent decision to rehire them.

The atmosphere was still tense when I visited last month, however, and I don’t expect Obama or Duncan making any speeches to teachers in Rhode Island – or New Orleans — anytime soon.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|July 6th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

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