Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What are they going to tell the kids?

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:10 AM |  

Demanding more money for Minnesota's public schools, nearly 6,000 parents, educators and students gathered at the Capitol steps Monday for one of the largest rallies in recent years. Pioneer Press photoMonday, I attended the rally for schools at the State Capitol. If as my critics contend, I were out to destroy public schools, the rally would be an easy target.

As Tom Swift notes, the crowd consisted of “mostly teachers, teachers union rep's, public school administrators and their lobbyist's,” most of whom were bussed in on school district buses. There were lots of photo-op kids and a whole lot of homemade signs -- or school made signs -- urging legislators not to ignore kids, along with Crosby-Ironton teachers on strike and other professionally prepared signs.

The speeches -- right out of the louder you yell the more valid your statement school of public speaking -- had little content. The best of the bunch was Hopkins High School senior John Kent’s, which shot some zingers at legislators asking if they had to print bills on both sides of the paper to save money.

But all of that is not the essence of the rally. Regardless of whether they were bussed in or not, regardless of whether they were affiliated with some group or not, regardless of whether the kids were their as photo-ops or not, many of the people that were there are passionate about education for their kids and for Minnesota. It’s a shame they didn’t receive a better message.

I know, a rally is a rally and when the wind is whipping out of the north on a Minnesota winter day, shouting slogans and jiggling signs is a better way to stay warm than listening to reasoned arguments. But nonetheless, as I listened to the speeches and watched the people in the crowd, I couldn’t help wondering what these people were going to tell their kids when they got home?

Tom Keating, Minnesota’s 2004 Teach of the Year, addressed kids directly in his speech, telling them that all the adults present were there for them -- there to make sure kids received the education they deserved; there to assure the children that they wouldn’t be ignored just because they had no political power.

Is that what parents are going to tell their kids? This was a rally about power? That’s what they’d tell them if they were honest.

I arrived early, a little after 4 o’clock and stood on the Capitol steps and watched as yellow bus after yellow bus pulled up and disgorged its demonstrators. Grassroots don’t grow on buses.

This was a demonstration with its roots in power. Forget about the public money that went into planning this rally to ask for more public money. That’s a trivial issue compared to the demonstration of power behind the money. The demonstrators, parents that actually do care about education, were but the unwitting props of the education establishment. The rally was about the system, not about education.

(See the masses we can bring should you not heed our demands.)

I honestly don’t know what the parents who were at the rally are going to tell their kids. I know what I’d tell mine -- Real education teaches you to think for yourself, not just the mechanics for boarding the right bus.