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Life in the Bubble

Recently GOT was meeting with a financial advisement firm to review plans for retirement. It’s always good to get an outside viewpoint and GOT looks forward to their analysis and recommendations for his investments. Not having been a teacher for an entire career with the result retirement savings are in four different accounts with four different firms as well as the fact that GOT has borne the market risk for his career means that careful review every so often is good. GOT will not retire with a traditional pension.

As we did the obligatory small talk to get the meeting underway, GOT mentioned the legislative action in Tallahassee and the increasing difficulty for public schools to continue to exist given the new voucher program moving through the legislature. The business people couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t imagine the threat that increasing voucher programs and charter schools pose to the public sector.

They have the belief that public schools will be around forever.

That’s the problem. The public simply doesn’t believe, not yet anyway, the behind-the-scenes machinations of groups like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Americans for Prosperity to bring about a libertarian dream to end what they call ‘government schools.’

(Other views for ALEC and AP can be found here and here.)

When GOT told the advisors that the true goal of Florida Republican politicians was to enact education savings accounts, in which parents would be handed the money and they would choose where to spend it, charter, private, home, or public school, further, that public schools would have to compete for the money like a business merchandising its wares, they were against the idea.

Unaware, but opposed. That probably sums up most of the public.

Bloggers write and write and write informative pieces. GOT is gratified that his modest effort has gotten some notice over the last ten months by some of the greats in the educational blogger ranks. But it must be noticed that the typical blog lives in an echo chamber.

Great pieces are written and shared in the usual social media groups. The likes and shares pour in … to like-minded other social media groups. It’s an echo chamber.

We join groups where the members think as we do. We like their comments and flame the people whose comments we don’t like. Those people eventually go away unless they enjoy trolling the group. We settle into a small (sometimes not so small) community where everyone thinks alike.

Here’s a good piece by the Washington Post about the echo chamber and how news media can counteract it.

Back to the problem, the public doesn’t live in the educational blogosphere. If we want to pull in their support before we lose our schools, we will have to find ways to escape the chamber and reach them.

That’s what GOT is working on–a strategy to attract readers outside his echo chamber. It’s got to include a way to get onto other platforms, traditional media, maybe some wacky promotional ideas, and even (shudder) some social media advertising.

Think about it. The latest action taken in Florida was to send postcards to lawmakers pleading for the destruction of schools to stop. The effort was sincere, but perhaps the audience did not care?

Let’s take the leftover postcards, send the same message, but address them to our neighbors and fellow citizens. Get out of the chamber and reach those who support public education but don’t understand the urgency of now.

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