My proposal for education policy wonks and wonkettes: let's attack the ideas, not the people who had them. Why? For one, it's intellectually lazy. If you have beef with someone's claims or proposals, it should be easy to identify why they're wrong. Second, it makes for sloppy conversation. Using people's names as cognitive shortcuts for a broad set of ideas results in our not knowing to what exactly the speaker objects.
A prime example of this problem is the reaction to Jonathan Kozol's partial fast, which is Kozol's attempt to draw attention to what he sees as the injustices of NCLB. Rather than engaging with Kozol on what is wrong with the ideas he's putting forth, some outlets have taken this opportunity to vitriolically attack him, using his name as a proxy for the big, bad opponents of "real reform." (Image above courtesy of Education Next.)
I can understand that some may disagree with Kozol about, for example, the effects of NCLB on disadvantaged children, the utility of a hunger strike to address these issues, or any number of the other arguments he's advanced since 1964. It's not my opinion, but I get where his opponents could disagree. But rather than initiating an intelligent conversation about what's wrong with his argument, we've seen a series of posts that go after him. (Sidenote: this is ironic coming from those who support TFA because of its "effect on the conscience of a generation." No other writer has drawn more attention to poor and minority kids than Kozol.)To be fair, I am as guilty of this cerebral sloppiness as anyone else. When I first heard about the Fordham Fellows and its associated blog, my vision was of wonks and wonkettes, hunched over Hpnotic martinis at Old Ebbitt Grill, scheming to marketize public education. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading the posts of the Fordham Fellows, each of whom has something thoughtful and unique to say about education reform.