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Reform: How & Why Popular Movements Can Fail

Over the weekend the Kony2012 guy had some sort of breakdown -- I'll let you find the video on your own -- and meantime lots of folks have been pondering the pros and cons of mass-marketed reform appeals. Here's one take from Rebbeca Hamilton (author of Fighting For Darfur) via Felix Salmon:


"To build a mass movement quickly, it helps to have an over-simplified, emotive narrative with a single demand. It also helps to tells people that by doing easy tasks – sharing a link on Facebook, buying a bracelet — they can save lives. Central to the formula is that the agency of local actors gets downplayed to hype up the importance of action by outsiders. But all those ingredients inevitably lead to eventual failure when the simple solutions can’t fix the complex reality. The movement walks away, disillusioned. And in the meantime untold resources have been expended on solutions that have been out of step with what local activists need."

School reform hasn't had a viral hit like Kony 2012, of course -- not that it hasn't tried -- but there are lots of other similarities, and, alas, lots of other similar drawbacks.  

Related post: What Should Educators Think About "KONY2012"


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The groups and individuals in the corporate-education-reform camp are reaping massive amounts of funding for it. Many of them probably started out sincere, but surely all the sensible ones would have realized it was BS and moved on if they weren't getting showered with money to stay the course.

It's been indicated to me that I'd have career opportunities if I went over to the Dark Side myself.

I admit I haven't paid close attention to the Kony guy, his circumstances and his meltdown, but it seems unlikely that he's being rewarded financially for this. So that's a pretty enormous difference.

It's been indicated to me that I'd have career opportunities if I went over to the Dark Side myself.

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