Editor's note: This is the second essay of a three-part series that examines the major challenges facing education reformers. The author adapted these essays from his keynote address at the Yale School of Management’s Education Leadership Conference in April.
In my last column, I wrote about the policy problem we face as people fighting for change in the education space. But that’s only part of what ails our reform effort.
We also have a political problem.
By that, I mean our policies have not reached a scale where they cannot easily be undone, or a breadth where their diversity of support makes them easier to get behind. And make no mistake, the threat posed by these conditions is as real as it is existential.
Politics is a numbers game, and you need politicians to actually change how the public square interacts with the policies we hold close. So let’s be honest—when a politician reviews your proposal, he or she is asking a fundamental and self-interested question: Does this get me more friends or make me more enemies?
If the answer is that something consistently makes more enemies, it’s going to be harder or, frankly, impossible, to get the support...