Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Politics of Blocking

It was pretty nice of iNACOL (the online learning group) to give out copies of Liberating Learning by Terry Moe and John Chubb at the ALEC Conference last week. It is a pretty easy read that I finished on the plane to Mississippi yesterday.

I wish I had read it five years ago.

Moe and Chubb give you a primer on the political strategy of the teacher’s union. They call it the politics of blocking. The key points they make are dead on:
1. Teacher’s unions are very powerful at the state and local level
2. It is much easier to block legislation than it is to pass it
3. If it looks like it might pass – they can push for a delay – request lengthy study for a few years
4. If it starts to pass, you can always load it up with a ton of junk amendments to make the implementation impossible
5. If it does pass, immediately start attacking either through the courts or new legislation the next year

While the politics of blocking is a cute name, it is also the politics of wearing you down. ABCTE really could have used this information when we started as I learned all of this the hard way.

One thing they leave out of the politics of blocking is that we need a politics of moving to counteract. If education reforms wants to ever become a “movement” instead of disparate entities pushing for single agenda, it will need to have a state level group in every state pushing just as hard.

The theory they put forth in the book on how education will ultimately change is that technology, both in innovation and in information, will rule the day. Technology is cool and parents want it. Unions are resisting online schools because of the fear of job losses. But eventually, parents will demand greater technology in the classroom and as the information about efficacy of teaching and schools continues to proliferate, the demands will increase.

They are correct and tangentially agree with Disrupting Class by Christensen et al that technology will save education. They just disagree a little on the method that will make this happen. They also put forth their view of the “education of tomorrowland” – but I will write about that at the other blog.