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People: When Reformers Switch Sides (& Vice Versa)

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 10.50.35 PMThere have been a handful of high-profile public defections from the ranks of reformers over the years.

Some of the flip-flops are bizarrly complete and public -- Ravitch, for example.  

Others are partial and more subtle -- Camika Royal, say, or Chicago's Seth Lavin.

To the second category add Philadelphia's Helen Gym, the parent activist who's profiled in a recent edition of Philly Magazine (The Agitator).

Gym battles the Mayor, and the school district. She might run for Mayor on an education agenda.

But she also helped found a charter school (Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures School), is married to one of its board members, and sent her children there.

I don't know anything more about Gym than what I read, but I have to say I like the nuance that's suggested. There are all too few people who admit to having doubts or concerns about whatever views they're espousing -- online, especially -- and even fewer who will admit to compromises or complications in their own lives and decisions.  

What about reform critics turned supporters?  There aren't any vivid examples that come to mind, but it could be said that many if not most of those past the age of 40 who supports reform positions now (regarding charters, accountability, teacher evaluation) probably started out (ie, grew up) wanting to be for the traditional education system.

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George Parker. Union to Rhee-ptile.

I'd say that most (if not all) Democratic ed reformers were originally critics by default--myself certainly included. Support for unions is such a central tenet of liberal politics in this country that "getting over the hump" and acknowledging that the NEA/AFT could be wrong on education isn't easy. Personally, before examining the issue more closely, I (pretty much blindly) aligned myself with union positions. Not sure if that counts as "switching sides" as you describe it.

good point, jacob -- see also what others are saying about this on twitter.

meanwhile, i'm reminded that there was a 2009 new yorker article with the same title -- about another side-crosser, steve barr

Same here, Jacob

I first met Helen Gym, virtually speaking, in 2001, when we here in San Francisco were desperately trying to get the truth out about then-hailed, now-failed for-profit Edison Schools, and Philadelphia parents like her were desperately trying to learn the truth about Edison, which was trying to take over their entire school district. It seems like we were very much on the same page about combating the forces that were trying to exploit our children for profit.

It wasn't always clearly "reformy," in the current tainted sense of "reform," to support charter schools. Their original intent was to augment and support the work of public schools, not to attack and ultimately destroy them.

So I would dispute that Helen was ever a "reformer" in the mold of what "reformers" have come to be. All of us activist parents are reformers in the purist, uncorrupted, non-Walton/Koch/Gates sense of the word -- working to improve our public schools and make change where it's needed.

Not sure if he's a reformer, but didn't the LA teachers union prez who fought Steve Barr ultimately open his own charter school?

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