Rally Around the Kids

For most of my life, I’ve tended to shy away from political conversations. My sense has been that unless I know I have a firm grasp on the full picture of any particular issue – and who’s got time for that? – my opinion really isn’t worth much.

Now that my profession, our schools, and quite possibly our entire democracy is under attack, however, I’ve realized that these are waters into which I must wade.

But quite frankly, it hasn’t been easy.

Check out this slide on competency-based education from a presentation given at the The Summit for 21st Century Learning and tell me if, by looking at it, you can tell if this (CBE) is a policy promoted by the left or the right:

Screen shot 2015-11-09 at 5.12.35 PM

The NEA and AFT?  KIPP?  Microsoft?  Disney?  You don’t see the American Legislative Exchange Council on here, but you can bet they are behind this policy too.

“Money doesn’t have an ideology,” my husband explained, when I asked him for help making sense of it all.

And he’s right.  (Though yes – typically I am.)

Corporate reformers are just as happy manipulating ideology and language which is dear to the left as they are of that which is dear to the right.

Like freedom and individual liberty? We’ve got bills for that. How about social justice? We’ve got bills for that too.

Peel back the curtain, however, and you’ll see that most of these policies – competency-based education included – are meant to do one thing, and one thing only: transfer more money and more power into the hands of those that already have too much of it.

Call this “discursive” strategy, as academics do, or Orwellian double-speak.

Personally, I call it lying.

One of the most infuriating things about all this is that I am quite certain that the makers of these corporate policies are perfectly happy to see us pointing fingers at one another – blaming this as the fault of the left, and this as the fault of the right – while they quietly slip through legislation that suits their business needs.

Personally, here is what I think: no matter what our political ideology may be, we have one thing in common that these corporate reformers don’t.

Children are actually our priority.


If they’re going to form alliances like they have at the top, we better do the same on the ground.  Let’s rally around the kids.


Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

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