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where to go after MAP boycott


I am not involved in the Seattle Schools in any direct way, but as a former public school student and someone concerned about education, I am excited and inspired by the recent boycott of the MAP test. I admire and am grateful for all the hard work and sacrifice that so many people have put into activism around this issue. Also, based on my life experience which includes involvement in activism as well as a lot of reading and thinking on the subject, I feel moved to contribute to the conversation.

My sense of the situation is that the resistance is going to win a victory. However, though I am by no means the first to say it, I think it's true: the left (or progressives, activists, the good guys) often doesn't know what to do with a victory. From what I've seen, this might be the case here; it seems that at this point the district is already aware that it over reached by threatening the boycotters and that it offended a huge swath of the public. The opposition has been hard at work mobilizing popular support to keep the pressure on. From my admittedly outside perspective, however, what appears to be missing is some sort of strategy for using this opportunity to expand involvement in and effectiveness of a reform movement for the long-term.

An unexpected victory usually renews our sense of hope — this is truly a precious thing. My guess is that some people who would usually shy away from political involvement are at this moment more open to the possibility of change. The danger is that success will lead to a celebration followed by everyone going home. The challenge is to engage as many people as possible in new activities and projects that will extend the victory in new directions.

My immediate thought is to organize meetings with diverse constituencies (parents, students, teachers) for the purpose of brainstorming ideas and beginning the process of deciding on a new project. Hopefully, many people energized by their new sense of power will be enthusiastic or at least willing to participate in this process. I am sure other people have many ideas for how to draw on this well of energy.

Still, I worry that the district's strategy will be to do an about-face and pretend it has seen the light. Meanwhile, they will be hoping everyone goes away and things go back to the way they were (albeit with a weakened or scrapped MAP.) This is why I think it is so crucial to plan one step ahead; if someone with a longer and broader view does not find a way to engage the newly energized people, the district's plan will probably work.

Fortunately, I think this rebellion is a window of opportunity to build a stronger and broader democratic movement to reform schools.  Again, I am truly grateful for the contribution so many of you have made on this issue; I hope that my thoughts help to stimulate further conversation.

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