Magazine article Techniques

Going to the Edge

Magazine article Techniques

Going to the Edge

Article excerpt

"Vocational educators can work with conservatives in local districts much more effectively ... by simply engaging in open and friendly conversation with them."

Have you ever been to the edge? For most of us this phrase may have merely referred to a time when we indulged ourselves in a new type of pizza that didn't have the usual thick crust at the edge. But for me, it came to life last January when I attended the Annual Education Policy Conference in St. Louis, Mo., sponsored by the Constitutional Coalition. The journey to the edge and back left me with a better sense of the "opposition's" viewpoints on school-to-work and how we can work together to make STW better.

During the three-day meeting, I truly felt as though I had been "to the edge" of the far right in conservative American thought. I was motivated to attend this meeting after hearing about some of the unique agenda topics, including "STW's Globalization," "STW and Federal Behavior Modification," "Fuzzy Math" and "Technology vs. the Basics." I also was anxious to hear the concerns this group had about school-to-work, a system that makes so much sense to vocational educators.

After being at the conference for just a short while, it became apparent to me that the people who carry the banner for conservatism in this country aren't necessarily weird and radical misfits of society. While many of their concerns seem to border on paranoia, their fears are very real to them. As customers of our school districts, we owe them our respect and attention as we seek to implement quality education for future generations.

"Us" vs. "Them"

The opening speaker, Donna Hearne, management and research consultant for the Constitutional Coalition, began her remarks by saying the vast majority of public school teachers are good, honest people who are doing their best to provide students with quality education; who are simply following the directions of their superiors. But, she added, "they just don't know what we know."

This sentiment was repeated again and again throughout the conference. I am still unclear as to what it is "they know," but after networking with many attendees, I believe most of them think vocational educators are good, competent teachers. However, we are just somewhat naive about the "real dangers" of federal initiatives like school-to-work, many attendees said.

What really was revealing from my numerous conversations was that many responses began with, "Well that sounds fine, but what happens if . …

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