Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Agreeing into Oblivion

Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich are working together now. At least for a while. In other news, hell has frozen over.

Seriously, though, last Saturday uber-liberal Al Sharpton and arch-conservative Newt Gingrich shared the stage at a rally calling for the closing of the achivement gap. Sharpton called the pairing the "original odd couple" which would be a pretty good line if he hadn't already used it to describe himself and New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein.

On the one hand, this is great news. It means that leaders, regardless of political affiliation, are seeing that the achievement gap is a problem that demands a solution. On the other hand, this level of ubiquitous agreement doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to get results. Just ask anyone who wants to "protect the middle class" or "support our troops." Everyone agrees that these are good things. Being against them would pretty much be akin to opposing motherhood. But agreeing on the goal doesn't make the fight over achieving the goal any easier.

The danger here is that "close the achievement gap" is going to be agreed into oblivion. It'll just become another bromide that gets thrown out around campaign time. It becomes just another example of unspeak. What we need is not rallies saying that we're against the achievement gap (or for the middle class or in favor of motherhood), but real solutions to how we're actually going to get something done.

At the rally, Gingrich said, "We're not telling you what the answer is." No kidding. But until we do find the solution, all the rallies in the world aren't going to help.

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