[Note, no “On the Agenda” post this week, you can access the agendas here.]
I’ll be attending the November 9th Community Conversation on Education sponsored by the Madison Metropolitan School District, the United Way, UW-Madison School of Education, MTI and the Urban League. I have a lot of misgivings. To begin with, it is advertised as “sparked by “Waiting for Superman” and I have little desire to take part in anything that is “sparked” by such a dishonest endeavor (see also the Not Waiting for Superman site). It also strikes me as yet another instance of Madison being reactive, when we should be proactive in public education. Then there is the whole mysterioso aspect, where you sign up and then get the agenda.
Perhaps most importantly, I don’t see this leading anywhere, or at least I don’t see a plan for it to lead anywhere. After 200-300 people talk about education, what next? The recent local record isn’t good. Task Forces, strategic plans, advisory groups, budget hearings all bring people in, and then they are sent away. In many instances they are sent away with little evidence they have been listened to or had any influence (I’m thinking of the hundreds of people who testified on the budget in particular). Community Conversations are not community involvement and the latter has been sorely neglected recently.
Genuine community involvement takes a sustained effort and requires that those giving time and energy also be given influence and power. Maybe this is the start of that happening in Madison. I hope so. If it is, then I suggest that district officials check out some of the publications from the Annenberg Institute to learn about the next steps (more specifically, this series of publications).
Meanwhile, I’ll go and have my say (despite the song at the top, I won’t “tell everything I know”), listen, learn and hope.
Thomas J. Mertz