The Iowa Reading Research Center has been tweeting more links to the IRRC blog lately. The blog seems aimed at driving parent traffic to the IRRC searchable collection of resources (which appear to all be links to other websites).
I suppose the blog is meant to be drawing attention to useful information parents might not otherwise find on their own. However, it is disingenuously presented as a parent-to-parent blog when the author is, in fact, a literacy consultant for the IRRC. And worse, the blog is largely written from a faux-clueless parent point of view.
I say faux-clueless because I refuse to even entertain the idea that a literacy consultant, for example, would need to learn that it is okay to ask questions at the library, is incapable of effectively using a library catalog to find books about robins, needs someone else to suggest the idea of pairing reading a book with watching a movie based on the book, or needs reminders of the importance of talking to her baby.
I suppose that having paid for the creation of the resources collection, the IRRC needs to drive some traffic to it. But 1) how likely is it that parents who need to be told these things are actually following the IRRC’s blog, or the IRRC Twitter and Facebook accounts? (Maybe aiming at professionals who work directly with the parents most in need of the information the IRRC wants to share would be more productive.)
And 2) can’t the IRRC adopt a less condescending way to address parents? (See, for example, Dan Willingham’s Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do.)
It’s Sunshine Week and in honor of it, Ryan Koopmans [on Twitter as @RyanGKoopmans] is sharing an amicus brief in a pending Iowa Supreme Court case on open meetings involving Warren County Supervisors.
From page 7, on the purpose of open meetings laws:
That purpose–to educate, not punish–is logical but easy to miss. If government officials want to meet in private in violation of the law, then they will do so–and they probably won’t get caught, since it’s virtually impossible to monitor private conversations. So if the open meetings laws are to serve a purpose, it is to speak to the vast majority of officials who want to obey the law and do the right thing. It’s to provide a backstop against the natural inclination to hash things out in private.
And from page 8 (emphasis changed to bold):
The very first section of the Iowa Open Meetings Law makes clear that it’s an ideal that public officials should strive to achieve; it’s not something to be “gotten around.” The law’s purpose is to “assure” that “the basis and rationale of governmental decisions” are “easily accessible to the people,” and to do so it demands that any “[a]mbiguity in the construction or application of [Chapter 21] should be resolved in favor of openness.” Iowa Code [Section] 21.1 (emphasis added). That message is pretty blunt. But in case it is lost on any government official, we’ll rephrase it: If you’re taking actions that are designed to hide “the basis and rationale of governmental decisions,” and there is no stated exception in Chapter 21 for doing so, you’re probably violating the law.
I will honor Sunshine Week, in a lucky coincidence, by visiting the Capitol to attend and blog about an education committee meeting.
I will also honor it by thanking some of the local bloggers and microbloggers who help shine the light on government by reading government documents and/or attending open meetings and writing about them for the rest of us:.
Scott McLeod opened the year with either a “brilliant and inspiring” or “negative and cynical” challenge to become more connected this year.
He notes that it takes five minutes to set up a blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, or Google+ community, all places that we can speak up about education issues, but that we probably won’t.
Because we’re scared. Or apathetic. Or don’t think we have value to add to the conversation.
I think that he might easily have added “or we don’t have time” to that list. It might take just a few minutes to sign up for accounts, but it takes many, many hours to keep up with them all year. If you haven’t got the time and interest to keep up with blogging (and the multitude of more or less abandoned blogs suggests that many people don’t), there are other ways to participate. If you have time to read a blogpost or an article, maybe you have time to leave a comment or link to it on Twitter or Facebook. You might live-tweet a school board meeting or legislative subcommittee meeting or conference that you are attending.
I do think the notion that our online participation “can reach others around the globe at the speed of light” and that we can “use our voices to make a difference in the world” is a bit intimidating. So I would add (as the author of a blog of very small readership!) that, while some themes are universal (parents experiences dealing with public schools), many others are mainly of interest to people closer to home (Iowa legislature, local redistricting) and that’s okay. Plus, blogging, in particular, can be of value for other purposes, such as, thinking things through and saving resources that we can draw upon when we find ourselves in need of material for dashing off a letter to a legislator or school board member, a letter to the editor, or a guest opinion or for speaking up at a school board meeting, legislative forum, conference, or just joining in a conversation at work or in line at the grocery store.
I confess that I have spent more than a few minutes following the epic tizzy on Twitter spurred by, perhaps Iowa’s most infamous parent blogger, Ankeny parent @StopSBG (website: Ankeny Citizens Against Standards Based-Grading).
I’m going to go out on a limb and just say that micro-blogging (aka Twitter) is really not a productive place for discussions between educators and parents:
I also want to note that a few Iowa educators–Shawn Cornally and Russ Goerend–had much more thoughtful responses on their blogs.
My experience, by the way, when educators (mostly Iowa ones) have taken the time to comment here or on Twitter (see, for example, Scott McLeod and Matt Townsley), has been positive, demonstrating that it is at least sometimes possible for parents and educators to have productive–or at least agreeable–conversations about education.
That being said, I wonder if other parents–rather than educators–are the most natural audience for parent bloggers. Or maybe there aren’t enough of us to really say for sure.
In any case, there are more parent bloggers than there used to be around here. I have personally benefitted from the rise of parent live-(and delayed!) Tweeting of school board and other district meetings. There are also several active Facebook pages keeping local parents informed and offering opportunities for discussion. In addition, long-time local parent blogger, Chris at A Blog About School, has some new(ish) company with J. Michael Tilley’s Blog and Mary Murphy’s Blog.
Looking forward to hearing more from all of these parents, and any others who decide to join in, in 2014.