At the EduCon Sunday morning panel, at some point Gary Stager said something like "Obama's goal should be to give every child in America the same kind of education his children will get at Sidwell Friends School." Fair enough, although if Obama set that goal I'm not sure how how seriously it would be taken. But he arguably did the next best thing yesterday: the President, the First Lady, and the Secretary of Education went to Capital City Public Charter School, a well-funded, public, progressive charter school in DC, an Essential School and an Expeditionary Learning School, and the President said "This kind of innovative school…is an example of how all our schools should be," which is pretty much exactly what Gary wanted him to say, minus Sidwell's ivy and inner light.
The Expeditionary Learning folks managed to get out a press release, and I goaded Jill into getting something up on essentialschools.org, but overall, the educational blogging community, including progressive bloggers, have all but ignored this statement, despite the often frenzied tea-leaf reading regarding President Obama's views on education.
That opponents of progressive education have not brought up the philosophy of the school the President praised is not surprising; that advocates of progressive education have also not brought it up is discouraging. Doyle isn't happy that he picked a charter with many upper-class kids and lots of outside funding. I'm not sure if that's everyone's concern, although it puts one in a bit of a pickle for figuring out exactly what kind of school it is ok to praise. Do you have to find one that gets no special funding, has exactly the same resources and population as the urban average and is unusually successful? There aren't many of those and then what does that prove? That the status quo is alright if we work harder? Certainly one necessary step in increasing school funding for all schools is going to well funded schools and pointing out how successful they are.
Regardless, nothing from Gary, or Sylvia, Clay on education.change.org, Will, or David, or Chris, or Scott or Steve or Miguel and Wes is sort of off-message. Nothing from either Klonsky, Public School Insights, Doug, or Schools Matter. Is there something about this school that I'm supposed to know? Is it heated with a kitten-fired furnace or something?
I'm not saying this means I'll love everything Obama does in education, but for the past few years we've only been hearing about how awesome "no excuses" reform is and how we just need to crack down and TEACH HARDER. It has been a long time since a President has praised progressive schools. We need to embrace this moment and use it.
Sidebar: I suspect one reason they went to CCPCS is because the family seriously considered it for Sasha and Malia, and if that process went very far I would imagine it would start to take up some serious time for the school staff and faculty. And I also suspect that it would have been impossible for the girls to attend the school in its current location -- the upper school at least, which is located above a drug store. That's not really going to work for security purposes, and while the school could and probably should be moved, that would drag the family into the middle of an ongoing DC city political dispute. So anyhow, a presidential visit would seem to be the consolation prize.