A Triumphant Return and Ignominious Firing in 500 Words

by guestblogger Andy Smarick

What’s crackin’, people.  It’s been too long.  I’m Smarick.  I used to be an inveterate blogger and tweeter.  I disappeared for a couple years, but now I’m back.  Kind of like Bobby Ewing or Kristin Cavallari.

To paraphrase Hitch, Rotherham is gone on a week’s vacation, and he left the keys to Eduwonk.  So I’m just going to take it for a little spin.

Some have noted the eerie similarities between this blog’s expert owner/operator and this mere house-sitter.  We’re both named Andy.  We’re both partners at Bellwether Education.  We both write about education reform.  We both did stints at the White House.  We each have a set of twins.

But should you ever get confused, just remember, I’m the one who has established healthy boundaries with fish.

For the next few days, I’m going to use this prime real estate to discuss some of the massive challenges of ed reform policy-making.  A sage in our movement recently commented that an axiom of policy-making is that government decision-makers tend to trust the levels and branches of government that they have the least experience with.

I’ve found this to be absolutely true in practice.  It’s easy to see the limitations and dysfunctions of the public entity in whose belly you sit, and you naturally assume that others must be high functioning by comparison.  The grass is always greener; they have Adidas and you have Zips.

Local leaders, tangled in municipal politics, want the powerful feds to solve their problems.  Legislative staffers, fully aware of the unappetizing sausage making of the legislative process, just want the executive branch to make things work.  And so on.

But here’s the thick of the plot.  I can no longer bring myself to take part in this ostensibly sensible buck-passing.  I’ve worked on education policy for a state legislature, a governor, a US Congressman, the US Department of Education, the White House, and most recently, as the Deputy Commissioner of a state department of education.

I’m painfully aware of the warts on all of these institutions.  In their own unique ways, each has a closet full of plaid shirts with butterfly collars and double-knit reversible slacks.

So with that as foreshadowing, I’ll ask you to stay tuned for my next post, one which is likely to lead to the revocation of my license to blog and the termination of my policymaking career.

As you know, the job description of a blogger requires a preternatural aversion to self-doubt.  And senior-level policy makers are hired because they are convinced—and they are able to convince others—that no matter what the issue is or the extent of its complications, they have the answer.

Well, I’m going to admit great uncertainty and explain why I’m conflicted about one of today’s most important education policy issues.

And until I get an armed escort out of Eduwonk headquarters, that’s going to be the dominant motif of my contributions this week:  Getting education policy right in law and regulation is extraordinarily difficult, and successfully implementing those policies is even harder.

Gotta go…I see a guard coming.

2 Replies to “A Triumphant Return and Ignominious Firing in 500 Words”

  1. “I’m going to admit great uncertainty…”

    Already, you sound like a very wise man. I look forward to reading your posts.

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