The Blue Bird of Ed Advocacy, 2017 Edition

After a year’s hiatus, Education Next magazine and the Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli today released its annual list of the Top Education Policy People and Organizations on Social Media. The lists are definitely worth a gander.

As someone who spends a great deal of time on the education policy Interwebs, I was pleasantly surprised by how this year’s rankings shook out. We are seeing more voices of color on the respective lists than in previous years. We continue to see members of the media strongly represented. And, from dear ol’ Eduflack’s perspective, we tend to see fewer members of the “education reform” community, both individually and as organizations, on these lists than we did in previous years.

Petrilli and EdNext smartly included a list of “Other Educators to Follow,” which provides a terrific list of classroom voices who are providing important insights, as they should, into the education discussion.

The top five education policy people on social media (meaning Twitter and measure by Klout score) are: 1) Diane Ravitch; 2) Randi Weingarten; 3) John White; 4) Xian Franzinger Barrett; and 5) Patrick Riccards (they really like me) and Andy Smarick.

Based on total Twitter followers, the top five education people are: 1) Ravitch; 2) your Eduflack; 3) Weingarten; 4) Alfie Kohn; and 5) Betsy DeVos.

The top five education organizations on social media (by Klout score) are: 1) NEA; 2) U.S. Department of Education; 3) Edutopia; 4) Teach for America; and 5) Ed Surge.

Based on followers, the top five orgs are: 1) U.S. Department of Education; 2) Edutopia; 3) Education Week; 4) Huffington Post Education; and 5) US News Education.

Yes, the ranking still uses Klout scores. Folks can get all over Petrilli for this (as they do every year), but if you do, how about offering another quantifiable metric? In this instance, Klout is like VAM scores. It is a vastly imperfect measure, but it is still the best one available.

And yes, the focus is on K-12 education folks and organizations. So those focused on higher education are not the focus of these lists.

A huge thank you to all of those who follow @Eduflack on Twitter and find enough value in what I offer to retweet and like my randomness. Just about everything on Eduflack is education related. I try to stay way from personal opinions, and instead focus on news articles and research studies in education. From time to time, I will offer personal opinions. And from time to time, I will include posts on the NY Mets, MMA fighting, and Guatemala. I strive to make it a relatively impartial clearinghouse of education policy info.

Please check out all of the lists on Education Next. And if you are on Twitter but aren’t following someone on those lists, be sure to add them to your feeds immediately!

 

Is It Too Much to Ask for a Little Civility

As Hurricane Harvey was bringing devestation to Texas over the weekend, EdSec Betsy DeVos did what most public officials do during such disasters. DeVos tweeted her thoughts and prayers to those affected by the hurricane, noting that the US Department of Education is prepared to help. 

It’s what is expected. It usually gets little notice. It’s what we do. 

But this tweet was different. What was a pro forma statement by a government leader became a lightning rod. Sportscaster turned talk show host turned Resistance instigator Keith Olbermann saw a need to respond. Knowing that DeVos remains controversial was too much for Olbermann to pass up. So he tweeted this response. 


The Saturday Olbermann message has been, as of Monday morning, been retweeted more than 17,000 times and favorited more that 48,000 times. Anti-Trumpers across the country celebrated the former ESPN newsreader for being so bold. 

Really? Have we gotten to the point where using a tragedy to both personally insult a government leader and use some of the vilest language possible in the process? Is this the new normal?

I get that the Resistance believes that shocking, ugly language is the best way to make its point. Dear ol’ Eduflack has written about the dangers of such an approach previously. But what are we really saying here?

If a teacher used such language in the classroom, would we now be OK with it? What if it was said in relation to the President? Or to those who organize nazi rallies? Would that be ok?

What if a teacher used it in relation to Robert E. Lee? Or slave-owning Founding Fathers? What if a conservative teacher used it in relation to Obama? Or to Hillary?

We quickly forget that our kids watch us closely and model our words and our actions. When we, as parents, cheer over the use of such language, we tell our kids it’s permissible. We condone such ugliness with our kids. Heck, we celebrate it. 

At the end of the day, Olbermann got exactly what he wanted. He was cheered by the left Nd celebrated on social media. But he has added nothing to the debate, nor has he contributed to the discourse. All Olbermann has done is take a rhetorical level we thought was as low as it could get, and drive it deeper into the mud and muck. 

And that’s a cryin’ shame. Our political discourse deserves better. And so do our kids. 

Are We Coming for Surnames Next?

I also worry about letting our sensitivities and concerns for “what if” drive our decisionmaking. We cannot embrace free speech or assembly if we believe it only applies to those with whom we agree. We cannot embrace a free press if we do not acknowledge that includes media with stark biases that may conflict with our personal beliefs. And we cannot embrace inclusiveness if we are afraid a surname will engender concern or outrage.

From my latest on LinkedIn Pulse, exploring ESPN’s head-scratching decision to remove a broadcaster from a U.Va. football game because of his “Robert Lee” name

Another Reminder to Learn Our History

And for those who think this lacking grasp on American history is limited to those writing on the right-hand side of our historical ledger, one only needs to look at recent responses from the left on what needs to be done to get rid of President Donald J. Trump to understand that a broader understanding and appreciation of American civics is needed by all comers.

From dear ol’ Eduflack’s latest commentary on Medium, exploring recent rhetoric on removing President Donald Trump, rhetoric that flies in the face of everything on which the United States is built

Some Advice for Hope Hicks 

It’s in the best interests of all communications professionals – and the nation – for new White House Communications Director Hope Hicks to succeed in her new role for the Trump Administration.

Over at LinkedIn Pulse, dear ol’ Eduflack offers some unsolicited communications advice to Hope Hicks. Hicks can take it or leave it, but it would serve her and the office well to at least consider it. 

Give it a read here

Gender Lines on the … Alphabet?

Most parents have been warned of the dangers of “gender-specific” toys and what that means nowadays. It’s perfectly acceptable for little girls to play with soldiers or guns (as long as parents aren’t anti-violence, etc.) and it is equally acceptable for little boys to play with dolls and tea sets.

Just the other day, a friend of Eduflack shared a photo on Facebook of her five-year old son receiving an American Boy doll for his birthday. The child just couldn’t have been grinning any bigger than he was from scoring his dream present.

We say that there are no gender-specific colors either. It is perfectly fine for girls to prefer drab colors, just as it is for boys to own pinks and purples. (And I can proudly say that Eduflack has a significant number of pink, purple, and pastel articles of clothing, but owns almost nothing black, except for my kickboxing gear.)

One would hope we’ve gotten past the whole gender appropriate discussion when it comes to equipping our children with the attire, toys, and such one needs these days. But then Amazon has to go and ruin everything. For you see, in 2017, there is one set of ABCs for boys, and another set for girls.

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Seriously? We are more than halfway through 2017 and we still think boys learn the ABCs from airplanes and dump trucks while girls only garner it through lessons of butterflies and castles?

Setting aside, for a second, that folks are paying $10 a piece for an ABC book. Setting aside, for a moment, that twice as many people saw the need to review the boys’ ABCs than the girls’. Setting aside, for a bit, that it took two additional years to finally wrap up the ABCs that were appropriate for the “fairer” gender. Was all of this really necessary? Is there now a demand for a gender-fluid ABCs?

I miss the good ol’ days when it was all about making sure a child could read at grade level by the end of the third grade. It didn’t matter if they were reading words from a Babysitters Club book or the Hardy Boys.

Sigh. Double sigh. Sigh in both pink and camo.

 

Choosing the Kardashians Over GoT

We’ve reached the point in our society when we want every micro-action we take to have deep socio-political meaning. As Eduflack writes at LinkedIn Pulse, sometimes we need to accept that television viewing is just entertainment, and shouldn’t be seen as anything more.

We are just as guilty of this in the education space, assuming we know what makes someone tick because of their opinions on an issue such as testing, standards, choice, or teachers unions. And we then ascribe that “tick” to everything they do, from raising their kids to voting.

As I write for Pulse:

In the past decade, I’ve watched more episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians than I have segments of 60 Minutes. After reading five newspapers – The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post – each morning, there just isn’t much more I’m going to get from television news magazines.

I’ve yet to make it through an entire Rachel Maddow show, but I’ve watched plenty of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And plenty of UFC Fight Night on Fox. In short, I’m the Neilsen Ratings’ worst demographic nightmare.

Why is this important? At a time when we should be looking for commonalities and ways to bring people together, we are using more and more – including our media consumption – as ways to divide and ascribe potentially mistaken personas.

Give it a read. And if you are up for it, come catch an episode of the Kardashians or a UFC match with me. It’ll be entertaining, I promise.