Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The First Educator?

Grasping for optimism, I began wondering a few weeks back if there is "method to this madness" as we slog through the daily delay tactics, in-fighting, and compromises of the nation's first National Health plan. It's been a long haul since this battle started and there is more to go, but could Obama be letting this play out on purpose? Is he that clever? Am I that desperate for change that I might even ascribe a hidden agenda to this mess?
When I came upon a long comment string on Facebook about particulars in the bill a few days ago among former students who are undergrads right now, I noted one thing: Lots of people are paying attention. Facebook is being used to discuss national policy among the young? That's new, isn't it?
Could this be a huge, nation-sized constructivist project designed to re-orient the nation to it's first job: taking an active role in the government?
What better way to re-engage the public than to draw back the curtain on how the sausage of a new law is made. We have all been educated recently on the power of lobbies, the particulars of compromise, the danger of the filibuster, the definition of corporatism, the names of our senators, and the unspoken rules of that elite body. The machinations of "how a bill becomes a law" is part of every news brief. Extending the argument into Christmas has only galvanized some of those who would not have paid attention otherwise.
I think, too, of my own interests. TLN colleague Anthony Cody has begun his own Facebook group Letters to Obama from teachers anxious to be a part of the next reform wave in education. As more and more of the "new" plan is being revealed, teachers (an often silent majority in the education world) are speaking up. Hallalujah!
This is the way a democracy is supposed to work.
Over the past twenty to thirty years we have been lulled into complacency. Our leaders have taken a patriarchal role and encouraged us to just relax and let them handle things so we can go shopping!
The last overt method to placate the masses was Bush's payout to taxpayers of "their" money to encourage spending and jump start the economy not long after September 11. It appeared to work for a time but was just one more distraction from facing what was really happening in our economy.
Is it Obama's plan to treat us like grownups?
Daily in the news we are asked to face the reality of what happens in government at the national level. The nasty fights are being played out right in front of our eyes. The rules are being exposed and the alliances are spelled out.
Most of us our watching.
And talking about it.
Students make huge gains in learning when they have a fascinating problem that is personally important to them, when they are given latitude to make choices, when the problem features some ambiguity and nuance, and when someone assists by continually handing over resources. We've been getting all that and more in this health care battle.
And like a good teacher we've also been given a deadline. "Discuss this among yourselves, but I need an answer by Christmas."
Obama has been criticized for not forcing the agenda for health care. Maybe he doesn't want to. Maybe he wants us to choose for ourselves and force our leaders to comply.
Maybe it's about time.

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