8 education people who I haven’t blocked on Twitter even when they piss me off
September 6, 2016
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Dr. Julian Helig Vasquez wrote a blog post last week listing people who have blocked him on Twitter. It’s a boastful post. Seems like he claims victory when blocked by school reformers, or he’s saying it indicates something about the character (or lack of it) by those who blocked him.

While I have blocked some people in my time, I thought it might be interesting to mention those who really get under my skin, but aren’t blocked.

Here they are….

 

#8 – Audrey Hill

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Audrey Hill is a veteran teacher with experience in both urban and exurban schools. We’ve sparred about school choice and education reform with a predictable pattern emerging each time. She assails ill-motives of reform fat cats who she paints as obscenely greedy corporatists who eat children daily for the protein. I fire back with claims about the eternal whiteness and privilege of America’s middle-class teaching core, and the #PinkLivesMatter movement that excuses their every insufficiency. She probably finds me to be every bit as insulting as I find her, but we still engage. It’s possible I believe she will see the errors of white teachers lecturing black parents about how to experience their own oppression, and she believes I will come to see education reform as an attack on a perfectly fine system of education. Neither is likely, but I continue to talk to her as a test of Robert Frost’s quote “education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.

#7 – Ben Spielberg

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It’s been testy between Ben and me. He’s had a good life, a good education, and the opportunity to teach through TFA, but he down talks education reform and school choice for those at the margins. We agree on welfare policy and the importance of income supports that improve family economic security, but Ben too often makes a needless point: that welfare policy should be prioritized over education policy as a cure for poverty. Nothing bothers me more than union-loving people who push the idea that poverty is destiny and education is less important for poor folks when they have succeeded in life through education and they’ve never been poor.

#6 – Andre Perry

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The first appearance I saw of Dr. Perry came during a back and forth I had with a hyper-liberal white professor from Madison, Wisconsin. She threw all the usual liberal professor stuff at me, with all the usual professor arrogance and certainty, but I wouldn’t relent. Once exasperated, she tagged Dr. Perry in a comment as if he was her genie. He said something like “get ’em Sis,” which told me a lot. I ended up reading some of his stuff, liking some of it, and sharing it.

I submit the evidence.

We worked together a bit in 2015. It was fine. He’s a good guy who apparently throws a good party, but he seems to swing erratically between being a reformer and an anti-reformer – often seeking personal benefit from whichever camp will have him – which muddles his message to the point of incoherence. We have had some strong disagreements, mostly about how class within the black community plays out to the detriment of the poor. In those discussions I made the case for the poor, he made the case for the black bourgeoisie. In the end we parted ways. He blocked me. I haven’t blocked him.

It is what it is. 

#5 – Jose Vilson

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Vilson leads #Educolor, a movement of progressive educators committed to investigating the intersection of race and education. I was once bullish on his work because he accomplishes the one thing I see far too few black “educators” do: he challenges folks on race within his own ranks. It’s easy to go after perceived enemies, but much harder when it’s friends. Vilson does it, often.

This was us when we bumped into each other in Philly.

At some point we had a dust up involving a third party and never recovered our ability to be peacefully disagreeable. Since, we both seem to have been further radicalized by our respective views on education policy (and the actors behind it), which has expanded our gap.

Still, I haven’t blocked him (and happy to say he hasn’t blocked me) because we are two thinking, writing black men attempting to articulate the complex condition of our people. We disagree fiercely on some matters, and it gets snarkalicious, but we keep it human.

#4 – Edushyster

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I remember thinking “who is this Edushyster person.” She wrote nothing that I liked and I was cross about the fact she used humor to address education gaps. When I heard she was in New Orleans last year I knew it would be trouble. I talked with a school reformer who had met with her and I asked “so, how was it?” fully expecting he would say she was some form of ogre. “It’s maddening that in person she’s a perfectly lovely person” he said.

Huh? Lovely? What?

Then I met her. I talked her ear off, and she was kind enough to pretend it was entertaining. Unlike many people in education commentary who see piss and vinegar as their main flame accelerants (like me), Jennifer Berkshire (or, Edusyster) is…well, lovely. She’s bright-eyed, pleasant, and, fun. These are painful words to type. It’s unnerving.

That said, Ms. Berkshire’s captivating in-person presentation is a lot like the animals in the wild that spray you with some substance, put you to sleep, then eat you. It’s easy to forget that her advocacy has one goal: protect traditional public education from competition and block the exits so families can’t leave failing schools.

But, she’s funny.

#3 – Melinda Anderson

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My situation with Ms. Anderson is a lot like the experience with Vilson. I read her work, loved it, and shared it. Though we came from obviously different education camps (her = union, me = reform), the mainstay of our analysis seemed similarly focused on race, power, education, etc. I reached out to her a few times. Never fully connected. We disagreed on an issue she blocked me. Thus is life. I haven’t blocked her because personality differences aside, their is intelligent life in her work and there are few on her side willing to go where she goes. We don’t have to be homies.

 

#2 – Carol Burris

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Oh, Ms. Burris, where did we go wrong. I first became aware of Burris while helping friends organize when a local principal came under fire because she resisted demanding white families who were suddenly zoned into her high school. They wanted to get rid of “honors for all.” They said it put too many unqualified kids in the same class with their advanced kids. It was an integration nightmare that exposed a lot of hidden racial dynamics.

During that fight I found Burris’ work and sent her writing to several trusted white allies. Burris had magnificently described the politics that take place when a brave principal tries to do right by kids normally excluded from higher level classes. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding her work because it rang so true to our situation.

Fast forward a few years. Burris and I had a brief Twitter interaction where I think she misunderstood a point I was making about privileged white families. It was actually in line with what she had wrote, but I think she thought I was accusing her of supporting those parents. She blocked me. I haven’t blocked her.

#1 – Diane Ravitch

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Ravitch’s prolific output of system-defending polemics is a far greater threat to reason and public order than meth, cocaine, and reality television combined. We need not critique her work because she has renounced 90% of her life’s scholarship, effectively making her the biggest Ravitch critic in existence. Yet, I recognize her power. A nation of mostly white educators who stand before black children every day see her as Gaea, and she has mastered dipping their pacifiers in moonshine and self-pity to soothe them into an immoral sleep where they dream away all the failures of America’s bureaucratized system of education. She does it from behind a shroud of scholarly work.

That’s dangerous. Scientific racism is no better than Kentucky truck stop racism.

Still, I haven’t blocked her. She has blocked me. Both are fine.

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