about improving public schools has become an argument over who is
wrong and who is right with little gray area. Jonathan Mahler explains
that the education debate is ruled by ultimatums such as, “If you
support the teachers’ union, you don’t care about students. If you are
critical of teachers’ unions, you don’t care about the teachers. If you are
in favor of charter schools, you are opposed to public schools…If you
are against increased testing, you are against accountability.” So, the
question remain. Where is the middle ground? Is there room for
consensus? If the best solutions evolve from reasoning, debate, and
compromise, then why are these “education advocates” not
collaborating to tackle the complex, interrelated problems that plague
the American school system?
The cooperation is sparse, but the feeling of outrage is
abundant. For example, consider this instance during the 2016
presidential campaign when Hillary Clinton spoke at the National
Education Association’s annual assembly. While the majority of
Clinton’s speech was extremely well-received, according to an article
published by the Huffington Post, because her policies have historical
been pro-teachers unions, there was a moment of discord during her
speech. Clinton said, “When schools get it right, whether they are
traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out
what’s working and share it with schools across America” (Felton). This
seems like a balanced and mature approach to a complex issue. Clinton
was booed by some members of the crowd of for this remark, however,
which they felt was at odds with union values. Teachers unions are
vehemently opposed to charter schools, to such an extent, many pro-
union advocates refuse to consider successful initiatives implemented
by charter schools. Herein lies the essential problem of the education
debate: members of both sides believe they are infallible, incapable of
error. Therefore, they do not want to discuss any alternate opinions.
Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform,
explained that Clinton “was trying to find common ground [on
education reform] and they [the teachers unions] threw a temper
tantrum, saying we want everything our way” (Felton). This is a perfect
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