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Campaign 2012: Comparing "Don't Forget Ed" To Its 2008 Predecessor

Corey-2817The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits updates us on the latest stunt from the College Board's "Don't Forget Ed" initiative  [see the giant pile of cash they dumped on Wall Street this morning, courtesy of the College Board] and is kind enough to include a quote from me about how hard it is to get the public's attention about education issues if they don't involve local schools.

No doubt, DFE has a tough challenge in front of it, and may not get as much attention for its events as time goes on.  As you may recall, the first stunt was a set of empty chairs on the mall, which did well, I thought, and the second was a PSA with a young woman speaking to an empty DNC/RNC convention hall (Nassau Coliseum, I think).  

However, I don't think these kinds of efforts are hopeless, however, Click below for a few of the advantages DFE has over EDIN08, and some of the lessons I wish it had learned.

There are at least a few things that DFE has going for it that are worth pointing out, most of them differences from its predecessor.  DFE isn't a totally new organization struggling to staff up and dealing with all of the organizational crap that's involved.  DFE isn't tied to a specific, fixed set of policy solutions.  It's not a coalition or partnership of more than one nonprofit that might have different goals or priorities.  (I'm not so bothered by the College Board sponsorship as others.] It's not relying on a single spokesman or figurehead to present its message. It doesn't seem to be bothering much with state-based field operations, which EDIN'08 spent enormous time and energy on.  It's not trying to be a policy shop -- this is almost purely a media play, and is relying on free media so far.

To be sure, there are some ways in which I wish DFE seemed more different from EDIN'08 -- that it had seemed to learn some lessons from four years ago.  I wish that there was a (c)4, for example (or even a PAC or super PAC), that there was a more specific "ask" from DFE to the public, the media, and the campaigns.  It's also much harder to run such a campaign with an incumbent running for re-election.  In 2008, and again four short years from now, we'll once again be getting ready to elect a new President.

Bottom line: while DFE may not change the course of history and is easy to dismiss, there's no real reason that a national advocacy effort can't work in education like it works on other issues (same sex marriage is doing it really well right now, as this Atlantic Wire post describes). Sure, lots of laws get made at the state level, but national leadership is nothing to scoff at and federal government still has some oomph left in it. I don't buy that whole "education is a state and local issue" argument, which suggests that states don't follow each other or what Washington wants them to do.  Education is a national issue, if any issue is.  

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I think for an education campaign to work at this point, it’s not really politicians that need addressing... it’s people. What ultimately worked for same-sex marriage was convincing the public as a whole that it was no longer a taboo subject, that it was a genuine right. Why aren’t we addressing the public as a whole, getting the young more involved in pointing out that, whether it’s the day’s topic in the circus we call government as a whole, education will ultimately determine our economic fate? In that sense, DFE is being smart in their campaign, in that these stunts will indeed catch the publicity they need to thrive in today’s world.

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