Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Myth of Sisyphus, and the Myth of the EAA, with Kudos to the Ann Arbor School Board

I've been thinking lately about the Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus, you may recall, is condemned to eternally push a stone up a hill, even while the stone rolls down the hill. I've been thinking about the myth of Sisyphus in regard to an endless succession (in that sense, not a single boulder, but rather a rock fall) of terrible education-related legislation proposed by the state legislature. Those of us working against bad legislation seem to be constantly fighting a losing battle.

Drawing by Ruth Kraut. 2014. Creative Commons license.

That losing battle was in full view this week, with education advocates working hard to defeat the bill expanding the Education Achievement Authority. Today, those efforts failed. On Facebook, Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools posted this picture of the vote in the House: 

Photo (or screen shot?) of the House TV screen showing the EAA vote.

There were 56 votes to pass the--a bare majority. Many thanks to most of our local representatives for voting No--that includes Driskell, Irwin, Rutledge and Zemke. Democrats who voted Yes were Olumba and Santana. According to Gongwer, five Republicans voted No – Rep. Jon Bumstead of Newaygo, Rep. Ben Glardon of Owosso, Rep. Peter Pettalia of Presque Isle, Rep. Phil Potvin of Cadillac and Rep. Pat Somerville of New Boston. (If you happen to live near them, thank them!)

But ultimately, I'm more than hopeful that the story of Sisyphus is not the story of the EAA. I believe that the myth of the EAA as a productive school environment will be exposed. The myth of what the EAA does will be shown to be as fraudulent as the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. Behind the green curtain. . . if there ever is actual transparency. . . we will see the EAA schools are shadows of real schools, where intellectual inquiry and passion exist. 

The EAA, and many other terrible pieces of legislation, cannot really stand the light of day. The fact that public observers didn't get to read the bill in its latest form before it was voted on is simply more proof of that.

Drawing by Ruth Kraut. 2014. Creative Commons license.

The real story will not be a myth. Eventually, I really believe that the EAA will be defeated by the power of people. Sisyphus tried to roll that boulder up that hill all by himself. That's something that we don't have to do. 

We. The. People. Have. Each. Other.

Here is part of what Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton said on the floor today (she's the representative who got a lot of the FOIA'd documents about the EAA that you can read here):
Please know...that I know...those who will continue to fight against corporate education DE-FORM know...and most importantly that the children trapped in the EAA know....just how well we fought, and will continue to fight the EAA. They can pass the bill over our objections and ignoring the facts, but we know it is a failure in every way. Thank you to every Education Warrior, the thousands of you across the state. Please know...the fight begins anew....justice and truth WILL prevail.

And that's why I was so pleasantly surprised to see that the Ann Arbor Public Schools board, last night (March 19, 2014) voted to ask Eastern Michigan University to no longer authorize the EAA! The EAA needs an "authorizer" to operate.

It's an excellent resolution, passed unanimously. Read the full resolution here.

To cut to the chase, 

That the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education
A. Urges the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents:
 1. To discontinue its affiliation and partnership with the EAA;  2. To work in concert with local public school districts in opposing efforts to destabilize, defund and deconstruct community-based and -governed traditional public education;  3. Go on record as opposing the State’s efforts to rid communities of the opportunity to participate in and govern their local schools; and  4. Build, foster and expand opportunities to work more collaboratively with student teacher placement and similar efforts with traditional public school systems, including the Ann Arbor Public Schools. 
B. Urges State lawmakers to oppose HB 4369 which would expand the destructive model of EAA to a wider arena.

Well done, Ann Arbor School Board! Since I know sometimes I (and many others) are critical of what the school board does, when they do something we like we should also let them know. Send a quick note to the Board of Education at:

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