This is by no means meant to be a complete summary of this awesome experience put on by Louisiana Progress, but I thought I would share a few thoughts of mine that came out of this get together. The livestream for this summit was www.louisianaprogress.org/live I was told Louisiana Progress will post a link to the video in a few days. When they do so I will update this post.
Before I start with my summary I wanted to thank all the folks that put this together and especially all of my fans who came out for this event just to see me. I was truly touched and amazed by this, that people from other cities around the state would drive through what for us, in Louisiana, were treacherous and dismal conditions, sometimes stuck in traffic for hours, just to come out and see me. I’m not sure I made my appreciation known at the time, but I was really blown away by your interest in me and your passion for improving our state. Your gestures made my work that much more rewarding and a simple thank you from me seems inadequate. I will promise to continue with my work and I hope to include those of you with the interest and time as well in the future. As was discussed at the summit and I discussed with some of you, I am very interested in hosting guest blogger posts or opinions. As was the case for Bob Mann, one of my most popular posts was a speech I heard and reposted, that someone else wrote. Our words have power.
It was also great to see many of my personal heroes up close and in person. Hopefully I didn’t talk too much (I know I did talk too much, but hopefully not so much as to have been super annoying) as I tend to do when I’m excited. . . If someone had told me 2 years ago I would be sharing a stage (or in this case a fold out table) with these folks I would have told them they were crazier than I pretend to be.
Here are some points I’d like to highlight:
- Bob Mann suggested turning our blogs over to others for guest spots or posts. I have posted blog posts or Letters to the Editor for Savvy Squash, Pegleg Mickey, Samantha Thibodaux, Lottie Bebee, Debbie Sachs and others from time to time. I also reblog the content of others to cross-pollinate work that I think is important for my readers to see.
- An idea was raised by me and other folks throughout the day of reaching out to parents and other stakeholders through other types of media such as radio, podcasts and YouTube videos that people could play in their cars on the way to work (not the videos). These forms of contact might be easier for many folks to work into their daily lives and stay abreast of issues important to them.
- Dayne Sherman discussed some tricks we can use to reach legislators attention more prominently through texts even if you don’t have their phone number. I will review his info when the video is posted and provide a little summary.
- Zach Koppelin described all the hard work that goes into making something go “viral.” While I choose to provide constant updates rather than fewer widely reaching content, for more significant national content his ideas and methods could prove very valuable in the future.
- Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster) mentioned a potentially flammable situation in New Orleans related to the elimination of choice for many parents coupled with more brutal and unforgiving discipline policies than most of us would put up with for our own children. I had already been investigating these issues and will continue to do so until I have enough for a piece or two.
- We all agreed we need more gatherings like this to communicate with each other and with the public. The idea was mentioned that we should try engaging PTA groups, as well as local civic organizations and parents groups to answer questions. The Louisiana Department of Education does a terrible job of reaching out to parents and individual stakeholders, preferring to use large flashy advertisements and endorsements. Rather than listening to parents concerns they try to wear them down with long presentations and power points, and faux experts and research groups like Stand For Children and CREDO.
- Most of our local media appears to be wedded to the idea of replacing public education with “anything else” (as the advocate’s editorial board relayed to fellow education blogger Michael Deshotels). As a result they almost unfailingly provide favorable and often fawning coverage to Bobby Jindal and John White’s education policies, ignoring all but the most egregious failings.
Here was what I intended to say at the summit. (Canned laughter not included.) I know I drifted off my talking points in a few spots but hopefully I conveyed most of this message. I inserted some comments I thought of after in green.
Good afternoon. I want to thank Louisiana Progress for putting together this little shindig on for us to all get acquainted in person, instead of just behind a computer or phone screen.
My name is Jason France, and I run a local education and politics blog called Crazy Crawfish. I also answer to “Crazy” and “Crawfish” as a result. But there are much worse things to be called, like Bobby Jindal, John White or David Vitter.
I started my blog about 2 years ago after leaving the Louisiana Department of Education, but that was not my intent when I left. I knew I did not want to take part in the destruction of Public Education when I left, but what I did not know is no one would listen to my warnings or investigate the things I told them that were happening to public education, and even public service as a whole!
I contacted numerous reporters, government agencies and politicians over the weeks and months that would follow my departure, but no one responded and no one heeded my calls. To them I was a nobody and I would come to learn that corporations have bought up most of our newspapers and TV news not to inform us but to herd us toward their coffers. [Something I thought of during the conference is that now people ignore me because they know who I am. Not sure if that is an improvement but it is amusingly ironic.]
I realized I would have to do something myself, but for most of my life I have been very shy and introverted. To do something would require me to open myself up to people and expose myself to criticism and scrutiny. What I was contemplating seemed crazy, which is one of the reasons I picked that part of my name.
But I realized the real folks without power are our children who can’t speak up. My own children, other people’s children. To remain silent was no longer an option. [When a bout of shyness starts to overtake me during a public speaking situation I try to picture myself standing in front of my children and that they would have to be the ones to fight for their rights if I did not. I do not use the technique where you picture everyone that you are speaking to is naked.]
So I spoke out, and nothing happened. So I tried again, and again. I went to public meetings, met with other activists in the community and listened to their problems and reported on them. Before long people did start to notice, and other people started contacting me directly to report their problems, for me to report their stories.
Today I’m no longer a nobody. [Well, perhaps just less of a nobody?] None of us are. When we all work together; when we all tell our stories and refuse to be misled or to go with the flow because we are afraid, we all become somebodies together.
That is what those in power fear the most. I am just here to do my part, but all of us working together through our blogs, Facebook pages, twitter feeds and communities can do so much more. I see this as just the beginning and I hope we can all continue to build on this together.