For the past century Liberals have dominated the discussion in and about education. Historically Liberal politicians have been able to count on educators and teachers unions being among the strongest parts of their base. As Common Core is rolled out we are beginning to see some dissension in the ranks of the educators. I believe that this is the perfect time for conservatives to get their foot in the door and begin to make meaningful changes to bring our educational system into the new millennium and here is how we can do it.
- Walk before you run. Don’t jump straight to school choice, vouchers or charter schools. Start by talking with teachers about their ideas and how they would like to run their classroom if they had the autonomy. Ask them questions like “Do you care about the kids in your class? If you had the choice to do what you want in your classroom, what would you change?”
- Emphasize that we want to give them the authority to make the decisions in their classroom. Ask them questions like “Do you like having administrators, many of which have never been in your classroom and aren’t teachers themselves, micro managing everything that you do in your classroom?” If we take the authority to make decisions from the federal level and bring it back to the local level then the teachers will have more autonomy to make the decisions on how they teach in their classroom. The further from the source the decision making gets the more administration and oversight you will need.
- Talk about the money. In their district how much money is being spent per student? Point out that they are only seeing a fraction of that for them to use in the classroom. Where is all of the rest of it going? What could they do if we are able to put almost all of that money in the classroom to use at their discretion?
- We are not against unions. When they ask you if you are anti-union or why you want to do away with unions you can say something like “I am not against teachers unions as long as it is giving you the choice whether you want to join or not and they are empowering you to teach the students the way that the students will benefit the most and not forcing you to follow a cookie cutter, on approach fits all mold.” When you break their preconceived notions by telling them that you are not anti-union like they suspect it will make them think twice and they will stop and listen to you.
- Every student is different so how can one method fit all the students in the class, district, city, state or the country? Are all your students the same? Do they have the same personalities? Do they learn the same way? Of course not. So why should we have a one size fits all curriculum like Common Core that forces you to teach all of the students the same way.
- We are not against standardized tests, but we need to realize that not all students learn the same or perform well on tests. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein
- Build a relationship of trust. Once you have built a rapport and established a relationship of trust by talking to the teachers about the things that matter to them we can start to apply these same principles to other aspects of life, such as healthcare. Once that trust is there they will probably begin to ask you about other things.
- We need to begin laying the groundwork for 2016 now. We can’t gain significant ground in the few months before an election. We need to be laying the groundwork on this for the next few years so that we will have moved the needle of popular opinion enough that when the election comes along this can be a winning issue for conservative candidates.
If we start laying the groundwork now by building relationships of trust we can make this a winning discussion in the 2016 election cycle, but more importantly we can bring our educational system into the new millennium and give the rising generation a renewal of hope for a bright future.