Joe Williams, who first entered into the blogging world on behalf of the anti-union New York Charter School Association [NYCSA], has been blogging for DFER. What’s interesting is that despite a steady stream of criticism against Democrats of every conceivable political stripe, including all of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Williams has yet to find a single Republican worthy of criticism. The sole mentions of Republicans on the blog — Tom Carroll of NYCSA and recently turned independent Michael Bloomberg — have been positive. Perhaps this is what the Sun was getting at in their headline to the story announcing the arrival of DFER, “How New Generation of Reformers Targets Democrats on Education.”
What is more, the DFER criticism of Democrats is, well, a little short on substance. Take today’s comment on a New York Times article which discusses possible changes in a reauthorized No Child Left Behind. There are important issues of educational substance mentioned in the article, such as the length of time an immigrant non-English speaking student should have to learn English before being required to take the same standardized tests as native English speakers. But Williams does not deign to discuss such matters. He simply issues a summary judgment that the Democrats are “destroying” NCLB.
Some educational bloggers think that DFER are not really Democrats. Their use of the term is not, however, entirely without precedent. It seems to us that DFER are Democrats the way that Peoples’ Democratic Republics were democracies: the Peoples’ Democratic Republicans for Education Reform.
Joe Williams responds here. It’s worth a careful read, because for all of his protests, Joe does not dispute any of the points made above:  that after many months, he has yet to find a single Republican worthy of criticism;  that on education, he has continually found every Democratic presidential candidate wanting; and  that like most of his criticisms of Democrats on education, there was no substantive criticism in his over-the-top charge that the Democrats were destroying NCLB.
It is the right of Joe and DFER to advocate that on matters educational, the Democrats should adopt the policies of Bush and the Republicans. Our point was simply that there should be some truth-in-advertising in that effort. Readers can judge for themselves whether it is simply coincidence that this agenda makes its debut at the very moment that the electoral fortunes of the Republicans began to wane.
It is also the right of others to oppose that advocacy. Some of us think that the problems which our nation’s schools face today do not find their origin in Democrats refusing to adopt the policies of Bush and the Republicans. Unlike Joe, we do not think that NCLB is without flaws that need correction, that the government-made educational disaster in New Orleans is a model that other cities should duplicate or that vouchers are a positive educational reform.
Part of democracy is the contest of ideas, and an essential component of that contest is criticism of government policies by the opposition party. When the two main political parties are an echo of each other, there is no contest. There is nothing wrong with one of our political parties reflecting the interests of the powerful and wealthy on Wall Street, so long as there is another party to represent the interests of ordinary working people on Main Street. Count us among those who think that the Democrats should be that latter party.