An Invitation to a Feast of Ideas

Dear Other,

Happy Thanksgiving.  I would like to take a moment to introduce myself.   As you know, I advocate for public schools, education in general, and, most importantly, children.  I would like to assert a truce, and to offer an invite to the table.  A feast of ideas that is free of dysfunction, blame, and antagonization.

I don’t know you.  I don’t know your motives.  You might be a radical education reformer, a millionaire philanthropist, or a state legislator.  By those of my ilk, you are also likely considered an  “Other.”  However, I remain committed to not being pulled into the same political purgatory that envelopes our nation, and has led to an unprecedented levels of distrust and skepticism.

You might make money from the adoption of the Common Core Standards, or from the selling of digital hardware to schools, but I don’t know that you are a greedy business owner, simply looking to get rich.  My default assumption is that you honestly believe in your mission.  I get paid to do what I do, as well, but it isn’t what motivates me.  Ironically, many of those pining against the drive for your efforts, are also getting paid for doing so.

Where will the distrust end, if not with us?  And, what has it gotten us? Let’s go first.

You may be a legislator who has fought to reduce education spending, but I do not know that you are “anti-teacher, anti-children, and pro-rich.”  You likely believe that a choice-based and pure capitalist approach to education is the best way to elevate all children.  I would love to debate you on the merits and evidence of our arguments.  Perhaps we could find common ground, because we likely both have elements embedded in our viewpoints that could benefit the common cause.  I do not have a patent on “right.”  Nor do you.

But this can’t happen if I assume you to hold malicious intentions, or if you believe me to be a part of some vast conspiracy to undermine all that is good.  How can we learn from each other and advance our good intentions when we believe the person across the table to be so wretched?

We both love our country, its citizens, and our children.  We might dramatically disagree on how to get to our goals, but that doesn’t mean we are each a clandestine member of some secret society.

I believe one of the essential traits of being human is our ability to rise above primal urges, one of which is the inherent desire to classify people, ideas, or actions into two distinct boxes: Good or Bad. Noble or Malicious.

Right or Wrong.

In reality, there are sometimes infinite potentials.  Perhaps your idea does not have evidence to support your advocacy, but there is promise hidden promise in your thinking.  Maybe I need to face an ugly truth about my position, but can blend pieces with what has emerged from yours.

But, most likely, maybe we’re both wrong, and the answer eludes us.  I’m accepting of that possibility.  I embrace it, because humility of position is a trait that can lead to productivity.

Meet me at the table.  Bring your evidence, data, supporting details, and I’ll bring mine.  Maybe we can generate a new vein of thought and action that will not fit neatly into one of those two boxes.

I’m tired of arguing with no outcomes.  Finger-pointing with no progress.  And, a divide that only seems to widen.

I commit to not making assumptions about your intentions.  In a conspiracy obsessed nation, I understand that just because I can connect the dots, doesn’t mean that they’re connected.  I ask you to do the same.

Let’s meet in the middle.  You care about kids, and so do I.

And that’s a good place to start.


Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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