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Polarization: The Education Debate Could Be *Much* Worse

image from oaklandwiki.orgEducators and journalists like to talk about how extreme and polarized today's debate has become, and in some ways that's true.  Social media is full of extremism and polarization.  Democrats are fractured internally even as Republicans are being stretched to the right by the Tea Party movement (not dead yet!).

But still, it's almost entirely words and yelling and rallies and protests, painful and triggering to be sure but well short of property damage or physical violence that's taken place in the reproductive rights debate or even in education at times.

For a little bit of historical context , remember the murder of Marcus Foster, the superintendent of Oakland schools, in 1973.  

Yep, murder.  

Members of the group that called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army shot Foster and his deputy as they left a board meeting, killing Foster outright, in response to a student ID card proposal that Foster had actually helped water down, according to Wikipedia, anyway.

I didn't know about this either, by the way.  Just heard it on the radio and looked it up so I could wag my finger at everyone. Credit Oakland Wiki/CC BY 3.0

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Being a lifelong Bay Arean and of the right "certain age," I followed this at the time, am familiar with the details and personally know various people involved (including former SLA members -- yes, really -- and an Oakland administrator who was wounded in the Foster shooting; and my then-journalist husband covered much of the story). The SLA had no actual interest in education policy but had a violent wing that was trying to make bloody, "by any means necessary" revolutionary statements. They later kidnapped Patty Hearst, granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst (disclosure that I now work for a Hearst newspaper). The complex saga led to quite a bit more bloodshed, including an innocent bank customer who was slain in a Northern California bank robbery. It was certainly a tale of its time, the mid-'70s, and of a political movement gone mad, but it really isn't an education policy story. That said, I don't think we'll see Diane Ravitch or Anthony Cody -- or for that matter Michelle Rhee or Rahm Emanuel -- pictured with an AK-47 and ammo belt anytime soon. (I'm fairly certain that Rhee's and Emanuel's bloodlust just extends to killing schools, and teachers' careers.)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.