Lynnell Mickelsen in the Star-Tribune explains how school choice haters and their “hot house culture of conspiracy theories” reminds her of growing up in a religious Fundamentalist family. Just like her Baptist family and friends, her her fellow Democrats and the teacher union leadership:
1) Frame issues as either-or choices with apocalyptic endings. Either you support every clause in the contract or you’re trying to bust the union. Either you romanticize teachers or you’re “bashing” them. Either you defend traditional public schools just the way they are or you seek to destroy them.
2) Demonize opponents. In the union narrative, reformers aren’t just wrong about educational policy — they must have evil intent. So reformers are typically cast as vague “corporatists” hellbent on the equally vague profiteering from or privatizing of public schools.
3) Deny or dismiss data that challenges their worldview. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans, students in that city’s new system of public charter schools have made remarkable gains in their reading and math scores, high school graduation and college acceptance rates. Is the new system perfect? No. Are students getting better results? Absolutely. Yet union leaders have gone out of their way to dismiss this data. And can we be real? If a traditional, unionized school district had been able to produce these same results, union leaders would be shouting them from the rooftops.
4) Resist any change to tradition, even if this means disenfranchising entire groups of people. Fundamentalists claim Marriage Is Between a Man and a Woman, so same-sex marriage is an attempt to destroy the family. Teachers’ unions are basically claiming Public Schools Are Between A Union and Its District, so any change in this tradition — i.e., charter schools — is an attempt to destroy public education.
Neither of these statements makes sense. Same-sex couples are creating families, not destroying them. Charters are public schools, funded by the state and open to all. And right now, the public schools getting the best results with low-income black and Latino children are … mostly charters. Yet the unions are attempting to limit or close these schools — even though this would disenfranchise entire groups of students and their families.
5) Represent a base that is mostly white, aging and nostalgic for an alleged better past that must be “reclaimed.” When faced with racial disparities, both the teachers union and conservative fundies are quick to blame alleged poor parenting or the culture of poverty. Conservatives often do this with a sense of fury; union leaders with sorrow. But ultimately, it’s the same message: Our systems are fine. It’s the brown kids and their parents who are screwed up.
Or, as Tom Moran has it, “The shrinking band of die-hards on the left who dispute that are starting to sound a lot like conservatives who dispute the science behind climate change.”