Friday, August 24, 2007

Lazy advocates

What I've learned thus far in my efforts to effect public policy is that if you really want to make your case you've got to have some facts on hand. Additionally, you must realize that people are busy and often they do not have the time to research the issue let alone take the time to engage in the battle. If I want them to help me I've got to go the extra mile and make it easier for them to understand the issue and participate. Usually, that involves many links to original documents, clarifying essays and contact information and tips to get them up to speed and able to effect change.

Yesterday's homeschooling post intended merely to correct misinformation being passed between MPASSa people has devolved into another useless back and forth between an anonymous anti-SSAer and myself. They make assertions, I ask for proof and they don't believe in the cause enough to provide it. This isn't an SSA post, it's a post about conversation and debate in an effort to improve their quality so we can understand one another and improve our city.

I wrote: "It'd be better for your point of view and the greater discussion if you provided some verifiable facts instead of just driving by and dumping a charge of lying here. Do you really expect anyone to believe the word of an anonymous poster?"
And this is the response I get.
ding819go: "All you have to do is pull the data from MNPS (the third presentation of uniforms I believe) "
and
ding819go: "Sadly you will have to dig through MNPS to find the uniform presentations."
All I have to do? I have to dig? The burden of proof is yours, ding819go. Here we have a great example of why the anti-SSA folks (and others) fail over and over again to make their case with the general public. They don't value their effort enough to actually do the legwork required to provide the community with the facts to back up their assertions. They actually expect us to just take their word for it. They've said it, so it must be believed.

And then ding819go exits with another unsubstantiated shot at SSA:
ding819go: "I forgot to add the first report of a gun found at school with bullets in the student's pocket happened yesterday. Let's see not even 10 days into the school year. Hmmm...uniforms were to stop this, right?"
Where was this gun found? Under what circumstances? In a school? In the parking lot? What age child? Just 'cause you wrote it doesn't make it so. I might believe you if I knew who you are and I knew you had a track record of being a reliable source but you chose to hide your identity.

If this is the quality of the anti-SSA advocacy it's little wonder they lost their argument. They can go on and on about how the fix was in with the study committee, how the poll was a sham, how the Central Office is spinning the whole effort but until their debating skills move past the "Is not, is too" phase, they're not going to make any real progress.

What may be worse is that the children are not well served when one is too lazy to vigorously debate issues to ensure that all the facts are brought to the discussion. Decibel level and quantity of posts does not equal vigor. Completeness and accuracy are what we're looking for here. Convincing the other side that you're willing to listen and maybe change your position wouldn't hurt either.

16 comments:

Ned Williams said...

Yep. Amen, preach it, Kay.

notforuniforms said...

Since the pro SSA advocates, yourself included, paid no attention to the extensive documented scholarly research that has been done on uniforms, it hardly seems likely that you will pay any attention to the Litton facts either. Hence, I am not going to waste my time gathering data for you.

There is extensive infomration about research findings on uniforms at the MPASS website.

Kay Brooks said...

Ignoring the point of my post completely I'm again told by another anonymous poster to just go look it up myself. That's no way to communicate.

You believe it's a waste of YOUR time to educate me and the readers of this blog in your effort to change the system. Fine. That's your choice. But you won't persuade me, and others, to your side of the debate without making the effort. In this insta-world people have forgotten that usually the battle isn't won as quickly as they can get a cup of coffee.

My support for SSA wasn't based upon studies anyway. Educators I've 'hired' to do the job asked for SSA. If it's within my power to provide them the tools they request then why wouldn't I?

Kay Brooks said...

Thanks, Ned. Sometimes, though, it feels like I'm banging my head against a wall.

StayingUnderTheRadar said...

Well. Helpful links have been provided on the mpass site. So if you care to be informed, all you have to do is click and read. Here is a starting point: http://www.schoenml.org/mpass/Brunsma%20interview.pdf

Granted, too many of the circle of people who post to the mpass site are shrill and don't contribute positively to the dialogue, but that doesn't mean you should discount those who have offered intelligent critique on the SSA issue, and have done so repeatedly by referring to and quoting the existing body of research. If you choose to ignore that, well, that reflects poorly on you.

You state, "My support for SSA wasn't based upon studies anyway. Educators I've 'hired' to do the job asked for SSA. If it's within my power to provide them the tools they request then why wouldn't I?"

Well, that's just stunning. Here's why: First, not all the educators that "you" have hired desired anything remotely like SSA. Research clearly shows (you can verify by following the link provided above, and further explore if you like), that SSA will not deliver on any of the promises its proponents listed ~ improved achievement, better behavior, improved discipline, etc. There is either no correlation, or a negative correlation (e.g., discipline problems actually increase, not decrease). I would think forcing bad policy on everybody in the system on the basis of false promise would be something you would find disturbing.

To ask that the content of pertinent studies, including appropriate context, be fully included in something like a blog is ridiculous. If you want to participate fully, meaningfully and intelligently in the dialogue, then you need to click your own mouse and go read the studies yourself. And drop the condescension.

An aside. It should be noted, notwithstanding Metro's claims to the contrary, the majority of our high schools (Stratford, Hillwood, Maplewood, etc.) are far from being in compliance with our new SSA policy. A quick look-over of the student body gives one a view of lots of baggy saggy pants and over-sized polos. Why are over-sized t-shirts worse than over-sized polos? And why are sagging jeans worse than sagging kahkis? And how come the system is proclaiming 98% compliance when the schools that had problems enforcing their dress code last year and brought SSA upon us all, are now having trouble enforcing SSA? SSA was supposed to bring an end to the clothing woes.

Re: your snide comment about the student found with gun in school, it was reported in the Tennessean. So, it's public knowledge, and your "Just 'cause you wrote it doesn't make it so" paragraph was rather over the top. Again, another circumstance that SSA was promised to put an end to.

Kay Brooks said...

Anonymous poster StayingUnderTheRadar posted:

"To ask that the content of pertinent studies, including appropriate context, be fully included in something like a blog is ridiculous."

I never said 'fully included' I'm only asking for citations and URL's to specific statement to make it easier for people to follow along, verify and research what's being discussed.

I never said 'all the educators I've hired'. But ones I know and work with did ask.

I didn't intend the request for verification of the gun incident to be snide. But it's not unreasonable to, again, ask people to provide citations and further information.

Ditto your testimony about current compliance with SSA.

All you have to do is type the citation into the little window and you've gone a long way toward helping people know that what you've written is true (or not). And yes, you're going to have to do it over and over and over until you reach and change the minds of enough people to change the policy.

But no, we're told:

"If you want to participate fully, meaningfully and intelligently in the dialogue, then you need to click your own mouse and go read the studies yourself."

Your average voter and taxpayer is NOT going to have, let alone take the time, to do your advocacy work for you. If you want to win this battle, your side is going to have to go the extra mile and repeat yourselves ad nauseam until the public 'gets it' and are persuaded to stand with you in this effort.

StayingUnderTheRadar said...

But you are not the "average voter and taxpayer." You care enough to take the time to operate your own blog. You are presenting yourself as participating intelligently in the dialogue but are, apparently, not availing yourself of the large body of published research that speaks to the topic at hand, links to which have been provided in a number of forums, blogs, emails, sources, published remarks, etc. I would think that if you want to speak intelligently on subjects, you would want your remarks to be informed by research and not emotion and anecdotes, which is what makes up the foundation of the arguments that come from the pro-SSA people. Further, I would think, as a home-schooler, you would want to model this for your own children/students, that we base public policy on sound research findings, not emotional and anecdotal feel-good, hoped-for promised outcomes, but which research has already shown won't deliver.

Kay Brooks said...

You're right, I'm not average. :-)

However, I am very busy and I expect that people who are trying to persuade me to a different point of view to understand that and make every effort to provide THIS busy person, as well as other busy (and uninformed and less research saavy) people verifiable information.

I have enough on my advocacy plate as it is. I don't do the other side's work for them.

THIS post is about being a more effective advocate in the marketplace of ideas. I'm sharing what has worked for me in my efforts. If the MPASSa folks don't want to glean what good may be available from my experience that's their call. But I predict that telling people 'go look it up' is not going to win enough converts to succeed in changing the policy.

And I've touched on this before. I consider the first person testimony of educators who have utilized SSA to be substantial evidence, not just anecdotal.

StayingUnderTheRadar said...

So your educator friends may have good reason to believe that SSA may benefit their own school, and should have the right to implement it at their school. What is wrong with Metro's policy is that they reached far beyond that, and forced it on every school, system-wide, in many cases where it is not needed and will have likely negative consequences, if results in our system correlate with research findings.

Kay Brooks said...

It is a public school system run from the top down--that's true. For most students it's a one size fits all education. THAT may be the issue that frustrated parents need to deal with instead of khaki's and polos.

If what you want is a system that offers much more choice (to include clothing, schedules, curriculum, staffing, yadda, yadda) advocate for that. Don't focus on the clothes--really engage the system for choices that meet each child's educational needs.

Martin Kennedy said it better when he wrote not long ago:

"She [a mother of a Meigs Magnet school student] does accept that the state tells her that her child must go to school, where to go to school, at what time, chooses the curriculum, and chooses the teachers. It is just the collared shirts and khaki pants she finds objectionable. I would bet dollars to donuts that this woman is opposed to school vouchers that offer an opportunity for genuine choice."

StayingUnderTheRadar said...

But we do have a system that offers some level of choice on some things; it's not, in actuality, a one size fits all system. And in some of our schools, there is a high level of parent involvement, parents who exercise their choices, and who have a meaningful voice on some of the issues they care about. They have every right to expect to be respected on the SSA or any issue, and to resent that SSA is imposed on their school where it is entirely unnecessary, where issues of attire were never a problem to start with, and where the focus on attire is detracting from the focus on education.

Wendy said...

Oh, how easy it is to get worked up over what my child wears to school. If his teachers and principal want him to wear certain clothes and not other clothes, then I'll do it. He somehow doesn't become an automaton when donning a pull-over white shirt and khaki shorts. Nor is he somehow smarter if he wears his alligator t-shirt and jeans shorts--he and his classmates are more easily distracted by the comments he solicits with his alligator shirt though.

Call/email Scott Joftus and ask him about schools that have SSA or Uniforms. http://www.edstrategies.net/scott_joftus.pdf He actually talked with parents, students, teachers, and principals to pull together his reports.

Please get worked up about more important problems in our public education system, like not having enough text books and literature for every child or not having enough A/P classes and higher academics in ALL of our Middle and High Schools.

Lastly, Kay is not afraid to come to Litton and volunteer. I’ve made a promise to give money/in-kind gifts and volunteer my time to my sons’ zoned schools—in addition to their out-of-school zoned schools. I admire Kay for rolling up her sleeves on behalf of Litton and her community; because of her efforts and hundreds like her our school has seen marked improvements and we continue to be a school in “Good Standing”.

Wendy Poston ~ PTA President, ILMS
Stratford rep for PAC and FACE

StayingUnderTheRadar said...

Well good for you and good for Kay and good for Litton. But why, exactly, does that give you any right to tell anybody else's school how they have to do things? Not all schools look like Litton or have the same issues as Litton, so it follows that Litton's solutions won't necessarily work everywhere else with the same successes as Litton.

Kay Brooks said...

Thanks for acknowledging there has been success at Litton.

The right for anyone to petition for change comes from our representative form of government. Yes, it's flawed but it's the best of the bunch.

Neither Wendy nor I approached the school board with this request. Frankly, I don't recall who started this ball rolling. But once it was moving the various parties participated, the BOE voted and here we are.

Your fight is really with the BOE, not other parents, principals or central office staff. Start holding them accountable for their votes and you'll have more success at changing the way this system is run.

I said it during my campaign, if Nashville continues to elect the same sort of people to the BOE, we'll get the same sort of results. Now is not too soon to look toward the August 2008 re-election of BOE members. Do you really want Kindall, Porter, Thompson, and Warden to return and continue on this same path?

Eric said...

"Why are over-sized t-shirts worse than over-sized polos? And why are sagging jeans worse than sagging kahkis? And how come the system is proclaiming 98% compliance when the schools that had problems enforcing their dress code last year and brought SSA upon us all, are now having trouble enforcing SSA?"

Sounds like an rules enforcement problem. No kind of dress code will fix that. My view from the outside is that the well-disciplined schools many seek to reproduce may happen to incorporate uniforms as part of their "program". That is one of the easier parts to emulate, however, it is not the total package.

"Research clearly shows...that SSA will not deliver on any of the promises its proponents listed ~ improved achievement, better behavior, improved discipline, etc."

You could say the same thing about government schools. If they only had more money...

StayingUnderTheRadar said...

"Neither Wendy nor I approached the school board with this request."
Not either of you, but the Litton principal was one of the initial group who was passionate about forcing SSA system-wide.

"Do you really want Kindall, Porter, Thompson, and Warden to return and continue on this same path?"

Nope. It's way past time to clean house.