The Greater Good

Activism is something that isn’t earned or a promotion.  It isn’t glorious and full of fame and fortune.  It can be ugly at times and downright depressing.  It requires your time and patience.  True activism is voluntary.  It isn’t selfish or part of an agenda.  It just is.  Because you believe in something so strongly you will do what it takes to make sure people listen.  It isn’t violent.

For years now I’ve been pointing out what is wrong in education from my viewpoint.  Sometimes I feel like many have heard.  Other times, like no one heard.  I’ve met people from all walks of life during this journey.  There are times when it can be the loneliest experience in the world.  Other times I am beyond grateful for the support from others.   I do all of this for the greater good.

The greater good is something you feel will benefit humanity as a whole.  If I write about an elected official or a state employee, it is based on what they bring forth in education.  If it is about a face behind a company, I am less merciful most of the time.  If I agree, I praise it to the high heavens.  If I disagree, watch out.  I tend to disagree a lot.  I sincerely hope the people I disagree with know this is a very gray area when it comes to what I write.  I feel I have to question motivations based on what I know.  Because if I don’t, who will?  That may sound arrogant and cocky, but coming forth with something education related is going to make me question where it is coming from.  And half of that search is in the timing.  Timing is everything as they say.  I fully own this and accept it.  I also understand it will make people think twice in communicating with me.  I’ve seen this frequently.  And I’m okay with that.

Some have basically said I’m a grenade launcher and blow up everything in my path.  What they don’t realize is the path is already cloudy and murky.  You can’t see the forest from the trees.  I throw grenades to clear the landscape.  So that after the smoke clears, we see what is really there.  It is frequently ugly.  But I would rather know what I’m facing than not.  I’ve learned that what most people hear isn’t the same thing as the truth.  I don’t see myself as an “education thought partner”.  I don’t do this so I can sit at a table, sing “Kumbaya”, and go along to get along.  If you see me as a partner, it is only because you think you can mold me.  You can’t.  I see myself as an “education truth seeker”.  I’m the one up on the roof shaking the place and letting the dust fall so people start taking off their masks.  I will be brutally frank here: there is some truly nasty shit coming up in education that will leave parents shaking their head as their students are turned into drones for the workforce.  It is happening now, right before your eyes.  And you don’t see it.  This isn’t even about saving what came before in America.  It is about preserving what is left.  I don’t mind change unless it is good change.  But to get there, you have to make calls at times.

I fully understand many people are unwitting pawns in all this.  A slight whisper, a few words, and boom: they got you!  So what do I do?  I call the unwitting pawn out.  I let them know exactly what I think is going on and why they are doing it.  The hope is they realize they are being used and snap out of it.  That doesn’t happen often.  So I keep doing it.

Sometimes you have to do things for the greater good.  Sometimes it isn’t pretty.  Sometimes it hurts people’s feelings.  Get over it.  It IS about the kids.

The Unholy Matrimony Of Education And Corporation

Last night at the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Governor’s Advisory Committee meeting, audience members were given a chance to give public comment.  I gave the following public comment, with the exception of a couple of sentences because that was covered during the meeting.  I will put an asterisk between those sentences.

Good evening members of the ESSA Advisory Committee. My name is Kevin Ohlandt.  Congratulations on your selection for this very important group.  This is a mammoth undertaking, this new federal law.  I will be completely frank: I do not trust this law.  I do not trust our Delaware Dept. of Education.  I believe ESSA is an unholy matrimony between education and corporations.  You can consider me the friend of the bride, education, warning about the potential husband who will not be good for her.  I have seen and heard far too much to suggest otherwise.  I believe this matrimony will eventually result in a messy divorce.  The custody battle for the students will be huge, and I fear the groom, the companies, will eventually win custody of the kids. 

I urge this committee to give an immediate recommendation of postponing Delaware’s submission of their state plan to the US DOE. There are far too many moving parts.  *States were given two dates to submit their final plan: March 31st or July 31st.  Our Dept. of Education chose March 31st without any true consultation with the citizens of our state.*  We were not given a choice as a state or allowed to be part of that decision-making process.  Certain parties were given a much greater weight in consultation with the DOE before any public gathering took place.

As a member of the Student and School Supports discussion group, I see far too many members of that group who would financially benefit from the Every Student Succeeds Act. When that happens, I don’t see them as a stakeholder, but a benefactor.  That is not what the term stakeholder means.  I believe some good can come out of this law.   I have seen many great ideas come forth in the meetings.  But until we can weed out what is good or bad for students, we need to “slow our roll”.  There are far too many conflicts of interest involved with this plan.

With that being said, the issues facing education in Delaware are at a crisis point. Whether it is mold in schools that is making people sick, or drugs and gangs reaching into elementary schools, or a teenager murdered in a bathroom stall, or the very fast implementation of educational technology in our classrooms with no research on the long-term psychological effects on children, or student’s personal data being given to parties that truly do not need that information, or lawsuits concerning school funding or segregation of minority students, or FOIA complaints against the DOE for continually failing to make certain public body meetings transparent and available to the public, we need to slow down. 

Education should always be about the kids. Some in this world have already determined what their future should be and I find that to be an immoral and grave injustice.