Stuck Between a Union and a Hard Place

For the last three weeks, thousands of school teachers and Union supporters have been camping out in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square protesting American style reforms to their educational system, including attacks on their collective bargaining rights and the institution of merit-based performance systems. Over the last several days the situation has escalated as the government cracks down on the encampments with tear gas and water jets, while the protesters use bulldozers to erect barricades around their encampments.

The situation bears little resemblance to the recent controversy in Springboro Schools as our teachers lost the battle for their collective rights, but continue to fight the war with the combined force of Malone, Stuckey, and Anderson, three well-known heavyweight contenders in the school district who have joined forces under the banner of MSA4Springboro, in order to combat the influence of the Warren County Tea Party and their leadership on the Board of Education.

Half a world away, another encampment has already started to form at a new Information Technology school in Paris known as 42, named after Douglas Adams’s answer to “life, the universe, and everything” in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Created by a French telecom magnate for reasons that mirror those in Mexico and the U.S., the goal is to prepare students for a career in the 21st century and help offset the rising rate of unemployment which is impacting the French economy.

At the risk of taking sides, I can’t help but feel as if we’re stuck between a Union and a hard place which is demanding new solutions to the challenges that we face in education reform. While I would be hard pressed to define myself as a Tea Party supporter, I can’t help but view them as a force to be reckoned with, regardless of the fact that most of their funding on the national level comes from private investors who seek profit from the boom of charter schools which effectively weakens our Democratic control over the future of our children’s education.

My question is why does it have be like this? Is it possible to look at 42 as the answer to our problems, by encouraging candidates to look at the new methodologies of Project Based Learning to better prepare our children for the 21st century workforce? Why do we have to pick sides in a battle instead of pulling up a chair to the table and discussing those solutions which are already working in school districts all across the country and the world? If we are to solve the educational debate in Springboro, we should challenge not only our representatives but also ourselves to step outside of this “winner takes all” approach to Democracy and listen to the values from every member of our community.

Or if nothing else, leave our left/right divisions in the 20th century and vote for candidates who support Project Based Learning.

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