This gives me an opportunity to explain once again why I think this contest is important — not just a ring of fire that you should be terrified to wade into, as The New Republic’s Seyward Darby sort of suggested, but a good launchpad for serious debate.
For those not paying attention, the point of the contest is to find an adjective to put before “reformer” that could quickly and fairly and without bias describe a certain type of education activist. The group includes Wendy Kopp of Teach For America, Joel Klein of New York, and Michelle Rhee of D.C. It does not include another set of people who consider themselves education reformers, but object to Kopp, Klein, and Rhee’s methods.
And that’s why it matters, because as much as the Kopps and Rhees would like to own the reformer title, and as much as the mainstream media lets them get away with that, describing only one side of the debate as reformers is neither accurate nor fair nor conducive to robust debate. Rather than hand the glory to one team, we should describe what policies the team wants and then evaluate whether they work.
Ezra Klein made a similar point earlier this week:
Moreover, the point of education policy is not reform credentials or even bipartisan policies. It’s better policy. But the composition of better policy is often assumed rather than argued. The debate over education policy has become unmoored from education policy and is now a debate over whether you are an old style Democrat in hock to the unions or an awesome new style reformer who has two! separate! blackberries! That’s not good. It’s possible that Darby or others want to argue that Darling-Hammond’s ideas are bad ones, but thus far, we’ve not seen much of that.
So, smart readers, what do you think of “idealocrats”? Are we ready to anoint a winner?