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Contest: What should we call the Schnur-like "reformers"?

While I’m on the Jon Schnur-Obama education wars subject, let me raise a problem that I have when writing about said wars: How should I describe each side?

In an earlier post, I referred to the Schnur/Eduwonk/Joel Klein nexus (axis?) as the “reform-minded” camp. In doing so I used a label the group calls itself, but also violated a principle I was taught at the New York Sun about the importance of precise language. I was rightly chastised by Leonie Haimson, who pointed out in the comments section that almost everyone involved in the education debate would like to see “reform”; the question is what kind.

A similar problem was raised by Richard Whitmire of USA Today in August, who was following up on Jay Mathews of the Washington Post. Their concern was what to call a group of “elite” inner-city schools whose students score better on tests than students nearby neighborhood schools. Ultimately the contest ended unsatisfactorily, and Whitmire posted my e-mail to him explaining why the contest was so hard:

“I think the difficulty of the contest is a symptom of a bigger problem. Aren’t these schools a part of a movement without a name? My editor banned me from ever letting the word “reform” follow the word “education” and I am glad for the lesson in precision, but I have never found a good substitute. The Wendy Kopp movement. The Teach For America alumni club. The people-likely-to-say-”relentless”-twice-in-one-sentence movement. HBS Grads for Change. Education warriors. Joel Klein, Paul Vallas et al.

The best description I’ve read was David Brooks’, “the thoroughly modern do-gooders”.

Anyway, my submission is the cop-out that maybe we first must solve that naming dilemma, and then get to the schools.

So, let’s solve this dilemma! Send ideas to me at, and I’ll update on our progress as time goes by.

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