I am about to use the words "panel discussion" and "inspirational" in the same sentence. I must be going daft.
In my years as a newspaper reporter and a foundation officer, I attended countless conferences and sat through hundreds of mind-numbing panel discussions. The typical conference panel discussion is beyond stultifying. When you add a Powerpoint presentation (which some liken to waterboarding) mass narcolepsy ensues.
So I was surprised, no, thrilled, when an hour-long panel discussion yesterday proved, yes, inspirational. You can read my article about the content of the discussion here.
What made the discussion so stimulating was that for once a group of political figures dropped the pretense of making nice and told some hard truths. It helped, of course, that the audience was receptive to the message. Still, to hear the mayors of Newark and D.C. and the chancellor of the New York City schools excoriate their teachers unions before a group of Democrats was to know hope. Perhaps this party, which has been slow on the uptake where school reform is concerned, is finally beginning to grasp the magnitude of the challenge.
Roy Romer was his usual blunt and feisty self, which added spiced to the proceedings. And State Sebanate President Peter Grof got in a few zngers as well.
Word has it that Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Asociation, was in attendance. I looked for him afterwards to get his reaction to the beating he took, but I guess he didn’t stick around for the reception.
The panel was moderated masterfully by John Merrow of the Lehrer News Hour (aka TV news for people with attention spans longer than 1.5 seconds). Merrow asked tough questions and did not allow the panelists to get away with soft or indirect answers.
Best line of the night goes to Larry Rosenstock, principal of San Diego’s High Tech High. Describing how unions typically represent the interests of their more senior members at the expense of newer teachers, Rosenstock said: "They are feeding on their young."
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