Answering the phone falls into the wide range of duties I perform as the staff assistant here at Fordham. I've received some peculiar calls over my tenure, but perhaps none as hostile as one that came through today. I thought I'd share the paraphrased transcript:

Me: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, this is Chris

Female Caller: Hello. Are you the group doing the Education Idol event, or whatever it's called?

For those of you that weren't aware, the event she's referring to is the Education Reform Idol, an upcoming panel hosted by the Fordham Institute pitting representatives from Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin against one another in a battle to be named the ?Reformiest State of 2011,? (with the winner being determined by live audience and online vote). The conversation continued,

Me: Yes, Education Reform Idol, that's right. How may I help you?

Female Caller: I just wanted to tell you that your event is NOT the biggest education policy event this summer. That took place this past Saturday on the National Mall?

(referring to the Save Our Schools rally)

Me: Actually, our event is more about education policy?not a rally.

Female Caller: [Raises voice] Well I was there on Saturday and you all could learn an awful lot from what they were saying. I've been a teacher in New York for over twenty years and it's clear you know nothing about what's good for schools. The only policies we need are the ones from the event on Saturday. I'm calling to say that you all need to know that. Mmmkay? Goodbye.

[Hangs up phone]

Clearly this woman wasn't looking to converse with me; she didn't even give me the chance to respond to her tirade. If she would have, I would have asked what we reformers could have learned from the speeches of education policy experts Matt Damon, Richard Dreyfuss and Jon Stewart. But she didn't, because the point of the call was intimidation. I'm astonished that a grown adult would revert to this sort of bullying, especially one employed as a teacher! But then again, how dare I suggest that a discussion about the success of various states' education reforms is more productive for education policy than an event dedicated to chest-beating and reinforcing the idea that changing the system is merely a fa?ade for attacking the teaching profession.

-Chris Irvine

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