The man who sat next to me on the plane ride home to Cleveland was from Raleigh, North Carolina, where the 2016 Network for Public Education Conference was held. Here are some highlights from this public education conference: http://www.schoolhouselive.org/
The man is retired and does a little consulting but does not want to be drawn back into the corporate world. He wanted to know all about the NPE Conference that had just concluded. He listened as I rattled on, not being nearly as coherent and cogent as I wish I could have been.
We talked of charters. It turns out that he is on the board of a small charter school in Raleigh that serves a small population of black kids from “terrible circumstances.” He said he was not aware of the large charters, the Gulen schools and their ilk. He was incredulous about the online schools. He assured me that he had never heard anyone blame the teachers in North Carolina and people in general were grateful for their service. His school is just filling a need.
He asked, “Were there any teachers from North Carolina at the conference?”
He was friendly and charming and told some great stories. He asked if there was any research about these education issues I shared. I handed him my Public Education Partners card and assured him that the website would link him to a world of information. He said he wanted to know more, and I think he will look into it.
So here I am, not a sunset away from this great conference, and I encounter the problem that we have been talking about all weekend. People just don’t get it. He did not see the big picture. He didn’t even know there was a bigger picture. He feels good about his work in this small charter school called Hope or something sweet like that. I do not doubt his sincerity, and I hope I have planted a seed of cognitive dissonance and that he will check us out or google charters or somehow get a little closer to the reality.
Our biggest challenges are not the evil politicians and maybe not even corporate greed. Those folks are beyond conversation, because they have no conscience. It is good people who don’t get it. It’s people who don’t know the challenges we are facing and how they affect the world. People have places to go to contemplate the mountains when the world is too much with them.
My seat mate thanked me for the work I do, and he complimented me on my passion.
“Who pays the way for all of these teachers to attend?” he asked. When I told him most were on their own, and they were not all teachers, he paused for a while. That may have been the thing that impressed him most.
I am not sure he took me seriously, but I think he did. I am not sure I changed his mind, but I altered the angle of his window on the world.
It will take me weeks to sort and process all I learned this weekend. The networking was the best thing in a wonderful two days. My flight home was the perfect validation I needed.
I will share the message, preach the gospel, and whisper the truth, one seat mate at a time.