On the defeat of education reform

November 21, 2012

Madam the tests confirm my fears and are conclusive. You need surgery right away and I suggest the sooner the better. Be at Valley Hospital at 6 a.m. sharp Thursday. By the way, stop at the front desk to update your insurance information and pick up the release forms you will need to sign, or …

Good morning Mrs. Jones. It’s good to see you again. Your son played a heck of a game Saturday. That was a great win for the Bulldogs. Listen, we got your results back and I’m going to suggest we do a simple procedure to relieve some of that discomfort that’s been nagging you. The risks are minimal, but I want you to talk this over with Bob. If either of you have questions don’t hesitate to call me.

Thursday is my scheduled day at the hospital. Check with Cindy on your way out and she will let you know what’s available. We want to get this taken care of in the next few weeks and get you feeling better. Everything will be fine. Have a nice day Mrs. Jones.

While the bottom line message may have been the same in these two examples, the delivery was certainly different. Sometimes it’s not what we hear that troubles us; it’s how we hear it. I suspect that may have contributed to the overwhelming defeat of props 1, 2, and 3. I believe there were many good things within the pages of those laws, but even a gourmet dish tastes better when you get to help in the selection.

We can all debate the extent to which stakeholders were involved in “Students Come First” or if Idaho even wants education reform. What the vote told us and is not open for debate is that Idaho has no appetite for these laws and the chef is getting this one back. That certainly doesn’t mean we can’t be successful with another attempt, provided the citizens of Idaho want education reform.

Maybe it’s a simple case of semantics. Maybe “education reform” sounds too much like surgery and something like “enhanced student opportunities” sounds more like procedure. Whatever the case, I’m a firm believer that most of us have a strong desire to move education forward. I will admit that many of my thoughts on what that should look like were just rebuffed, but much gold has been salvaged from many a sunken ship.

I have always admired when people stand up for what they believe in, and let their voice be heard. In the case of the defeated propositions that voice was loud and clear. Future efforts to change our education landscape will require much more consensus and stakeholder involvement. To be successful, the process of government must adapt to the will of those they serve. I am confident that will happen.

Years ago a wise man posed an interesting question to me. He asked if I would rather tell someone I failed or that I had failed three times. I responded that while neither was what I would place in the category of optimism; I would choose to have failed three times. Why is that? To say you have failed indicates your efforts have ceased. By continuing to fail it means we continue to try. Idaho students are too important to our future to let our fear of failure be the reason success escapes us.

Idaho State Journal 11/9/2012