Lauren Secatore (Chicago Corps ’03) is director of knowledge management for Chicago Public Schools. Her opinion is reposted with permission from her Facebook page; links were added by Pass the Chalk editors.
Lots of people have noticed that I have been uncharacteristically quiet over the past few weeks in regard to the Chicago teacher strike. I have lots to say on this issue, but for the first time in my life, I sat out of a debate. And here’s why:
What should have been a substantive discussion about education became reduced to a shouting match. What should have been a nuanced conversation about policy became politics. What should have been discussions ABOUT children became adults acting LIKE children while arguing ABOUT adults. What is a comprehensive, complicated, and critical issue became simplified to choosing sides. And the amount of coverage the strike received was inversely related to the quality of that coverage. It was enough to make me consider changing my life’s work to reforming journalism.
But I won’t. Because education is my life’s work. I have been working in the Chicago education community every day for almost 10 years. I have been an outsider, an insider, an upstart, and a higher-up. I have been on the right side, the wrong side, the reform side, and the South Side of this issue. I can claim the reportedly disparate acronyms CPS, CTU, and TFA all on my resume. These 10 years have given me deep, unwavering, remote-control-throwing, screaming-at-the-TV opinions. Opinions so strong, you would think I would speak. But I didn’t.
I didn’t speak because sharing an opinion last week bred the false equivalence of choosing a side and fed into the artificial dichotomy that there were only two. And what I’ve built over the past 10 years are deep relationships with people whom I respect and admire on every “side” of this issue. I didn’t speak because what I’ve learned more than anything over the past decade was that we are on the same team. We have to be, or else we won’t solve this. We don’t have time to divide things into black and white; we have to work in the grey, or else we won’t solve this. We don’t have time to be partisan, or else we won’t solve this. It’s not charters vs. traditionals, turnarounds vs. probation, board vs. union, alt-cert vs. tenured, Karen vs. Rahm, democrats vs. republicans, or teachers vs. principals. It’s principle:
We need to do what’s best for kids.
Lauren Secatore was a 2003 Teach For America corps member and taught for five years in the Englewood community on Chicago’s South Side. She then joined Teach For America’s recruitment team, and went on to become the managing director of district and school partnerships on the Chicago regional team. Currently, Lauren is the director of knowledge management for Chicago Public Schools.