The Daily Kel

Blog for Kelly Lamrock, M.L.A. for Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak, New Brunswick

Monday, October 23, 2006

Three Questions

"I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing changed." -- George Carlin

How do you deliver change in a system without short-circuiting the system? That's the challenge.

First thing I decided is that we're not going to throw out good ideas because they were someone else's. Too often government sputters because the new management is hostile to everything the old guys did. Business doesn't run that way. Neither should we.

I criticized the government for wasting a lot of time restructuring administration instead of addressing the classroom. So, it would be hypocritical of me to now restructure DEC's because "they" created them. The structure's fine. Not the biggest issue. So, we keep it.

The QLA asks some good questions, too. Early literacy and intervention. Reaching kids in the middle group of learners in a system too often focussed on crisis management. Testing and accountability. So, we keep working on those.

But we add, too. In some cases, we add resources and resolve. Add some issues that were forgotten. Test what isn't working. And maybe think about some assumptions about how education works, and how a public system can offer more innovation, rewards for risk-takers, parental choice and local leadership. Ask how schools can serve the whole community, or how we screen earlier for learning disablities, or how we can do a better job of providing diversity in our course offerings.

Really, I want to keep what was good and build on it. I have some pretty strong ideas, but I also don't believe that I, and a few folks in my office, are going to single-handedly make our province a leader in education.

The first thing I've done as minister is start a tour of schools in the province. Every district. I've asked to see classes where teachers are doing innovative things. Talk to students about what makes them learn, and what makes them want to. Speak to parents.

I've asked three questions that cover the change people should prepare for. And now, I'd like to offer these here for any thoughts you all care to offer.

1. How do we encourage and reward innovation from teachers and principals? Did you know that the STU education class often has a higher entering GPA than some law schools? Absolutely true. Today's teachers are high-achievers, they have two degrees, they had to show a passion for their profession just to get admitted. So, why do we have education plans and remuneration plans that are so top down? If we're going to be leaders in education, it will be the sum total of many small innovations that get us there, not waiting for one big ministerial lightening bolt of an idea.

2. How do we interven more quickly and more appropriately for exceptional learners? The big challenge -- being leaders in education means getting everyone on the bus. But one important note -- "exceptional" means gifted kids as wellas those with learning challenges.

3. How do we ensure that every child has a chance to find something they are good at, and passionate about? My old mentor in education, Chip Anderson, was an expert in making students stay in school. He believed that you study those who succeed to find out what they do right rather than asking what others do "wrong". He found that high achievers have a strong sense of their strengths, and use them to find something that makes them persist and overcome obstacles.

So, why do we have art, music, extra-curriculars, hands-on learning, proper libraries and trades in the schools? Because they give kids a chance to love learning.

So, those are my three questions. And I owe it to the system to consider other answers as well as my own. Thoughts?

Draft-y In Here. Must Be Holes In The Argument

The Tories seem upset because there was a draft of the Liberal platform. Several, in fact.

Did they go with the first draft of theirs?

If not, what's the point?

If I went through the Department of Education, think I could find a draft of the Quality Learning Agenda?

Do you think that would be worth my time?

If not, why is the opposition's complaint worth your time?

Back To Blogging

OK, take a breath..... you can do it.

I'm back at this. It's been a whirlwind three weeks since getting the call from the Premier. You work so hard to know your files, write bills, propose ideas, push ministers, knock on doors, change minds, sell change.

And then, one day, you're the Minister of Education. It will not last forever. You are expendable. One day, you will be expended. So, you had better make every day precious. Don't just deal with whatever comes up. Don't play it safe. Use your political capital for change.

Suddenly, every minute you're wondering if maybe you could have done something more with it. Meanwhile, there are so many more little brush fires, small issues - but urgent to the person talking to you -- that you have to balance with why you are here.

I'm back to blogging because I want every avenue I can take for people to keep in touch with me. Sometimes the department seems so big that I worry about feeling distant from the community I represent.

So, I'm blogging. Let me know your thoughts. And thank you so much for the opportunity to do this job.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Memorable Campaign Ad

I know this is Canada, but this is neat....

Kirsten Gillibrand is a progressive Democrat running in a Republican district. She is actually competitive with a GOP incumbent who just votes as the Bushies tell him to.

As she closed in, the congressman began attacking her family members.

I think this is one of the most interesting ads I've seen yet. I love the retro feel, and it really hits home. Whatever your politics, you've got to love the creativity.

Why I'm For Dryden

Ken Dryden published this in the National Post. I find it interesting that political insiders assume he can't win, yet the public seems to like him.

I support Ken because I agree iwth his view of government -- a way to bring people together to achieve big, collective goals we couldn't achieve as individuals.

I agree with him on child care, on Kyoto, and on the Kelowna Accord.

But the biggest reason I support him is because he actually writes his own stuff, develops his own ideas, and consistently offers substance instead of spin and attack.

I think politics is a little broken today. Jon Stewart defined "spin" as making an argument you know is illogical in order to further a cause you believe in. You see it a lot -- all members of a party using the same attack line that doesn't really hold logical water.

(*e.g. - Politician x voted against our budget, so he opposes money to build Highway "Y" in his riding, because the budget contained money for "Y".)

Federal politics seems to often be contrasting choruses of spin lines. Because someone has to win, the winning backroom gang convinces themselves that it was spin that won the election, so we get more of it. Even though declining turnout, slimmer mandates and more regional division would suggest that voters miss the politician who can unite us. No one ever runs against that guy.

I think Ken is that guy. He at least aspires to be, and I think the public will agree if insiders let them make that choice.

For all my fellow Liberals looking for "winnability", there is no "winnability" other than being the best potential PM. (Paul Wells wrote something like that after Stock Day crashed and burned, and he was right).

Here's Ken's piece....

Ken Dryden – nice guy, good goalie, really admire all he’s done – can’t win. Who says? Doesn’t have the “killer instinct.” Politics is a rough sport, you know. Gotta go into the corners with your elbows up.

Really? Do you know what going into the corners is really about? It’s to get the puck! Go in with your elbows up, you’re off for two minutes – and they get it. The best, the best, know what the prize is, then go after it, get it, then do something with it. Just like those who are the best at politics.

After the last election, we – as a party, as citizens – said we needed to do politics differently. Except political and media insiders looked at each other, winked, and said, “But politics doesn’t work that way.” Who says? Why not? Has anybody tried? Has anybody asked the public? Has anybody wondered why the public is disgusted with politics?

Big important things – Afghanistan, the future of our aboriginal peoples, global warming – and what do they see? The shouting, laughing, backslapping; the name-calling and disrespect – the stupid political games. This is how politics works? Who does it work for? Anybody asked the public?

I always thought politics was about people. People who aren’t doing very well and need a boost; people who are doing well and can do even better. If it isn’t about that, why do it? It’s a lousy life. But if it is about people, it’s great. It’s taking that instinct that’s in all of us – to help others – that we express every day in our service clubs and church groups, and give it a big chance, with all the power of government behind it. I always thought elected politics was about winning the public’s trust and support in order to get that big chance. We have been involved in this Liberal leadership campaign since slightly before the beginning of time. And for something that goes on this long, there’s got to be a way of keeping score. Who’s ahead? Who’s behind? Who’s got “momentum”? So we take what we know – who’s supporting who; the amount of money raised – and in the absence of anything else they become the way we keep score. Then spinners spin, and those who report, in the absence of anything else, report the spin. And inside our own little world, we spin harder and faster and pretend the horse race has been decided before the public’s voice has had a chance to be heard. Because that’s how politics “works.”

Who says? I always thought politics, like any competition, was about understanding yourself, what you believe you are and do best; and what you aren’t, your weaknesses, seen through your opponent’s eyes. And seeing your opponent that same way – then developing a plan. In this case, and before our convention in December, I thought the task for every voting member and every delegate was to imagine this is June 2007 and the writ is about to be dropped for a new election. It’s the Conservatives and Stephen Harper against the Liberals and ____. Then to take each Liberal leadership candidate one-by-one and imagine what that campaign would look like. Not just how we would see it, but how the Conservatives would as well. How they would run against each of us. What they would say. What they would want the public to hear. What the public would be most likely to hear. Who would the Conservatives be drooling to run against? Who would they not? Two weeks ago, a poll released by CBC Newsworld showed among the general public who identified themselves as Liberal supporters, I was tied for first with Bob Rae. Among the public in general, I was first. To me, the interesting response was in one of the supplementary questions in the poll: among those who identified themselves as Conservative, NDP or Bloc supporters, if ___ was elected Liberal party leader, would you consider voting for him/her? With my name in the blank space, more than 40% of Conservatives said “yes,” more than 40% of NDP’ers said “yes”, and more than 40% of Bloc supporters said “yes”. A week later, with front-page headlines, in a poll of Liberal members and potential delegates, I was tied for fourth, and the commentators wrote about how the race was over and it was now down to the top three.

This is stop-the-spinning, get-real time. The stakes in the next election are clear – it’s Kyoto or it’s not; Kelowna or it’s not; child care or it’s not. It’s a generous, inclusive, connecting Big Canada, or it’s not. For those who are voting this weekend to select delegates to Montreal, remember, it is your vote, your decision. Nothing’s been decided. It is up to you. And that everyone elected as a delegate to Montreal is really a surrogate for the 32 million Canadians who are not there. We have to give ourselves our best chance to win. We owe that to Canadians. In Montreal, the first ballot belongs to the political machines. Every other ballot belongs to the people. Ken Dryden? Can’t win. Who says? Not the people.