Nearly 150 students and alumni have now signed a statement of protest asking the HGSE to rescind the invite.
You can read the statement here.
Digging into this protest provides a glimpse of just how messy the debate on education is.
Here's how the statement of protest begins its objection to Sen. Johnston.
As a state senator in Colorado, Sen. Johnston has pushed through education reforms that we believe work against educational justice for Coloradoan students, teachers, school leaders, and communities. Sen. Johnston often claims to have been inspired by Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. However, we believe his vision and policies have been informed far more by conservative economists like Eric Hanushek, who promote policies where teachers are churned in and out of the profession based primarily on test score production.I like this debate because it demonstrates opposing sides that want the same outcome but believe in strikingly different paths.
I seek out examples of this kind of debate for classroom discussions because they are the kinds of debates my students don't think of. My students are very good at naming debates where the opposing sides want different outcomes: Abortion, nuclear power, two-state solution, cap and trade, and the list goes on.
Those are all interesting debates, but this education debate asks students to think beyond zero-sum games. Both sides want a more effective education system for the US. So, then what's the debate about?
And we're off! It's about testing, students, teachers, poverty, corporate interests, the size of government, regulation, the role of parents... and now we are so much closer to grasping the scope of conflict in public discourse.
So, I like the debate.
The protest? I'm a little less certain about that.
Sen. Johnston is HGSE alumni. He has a successful career. He has gained a position of influence and made decisions on policy.
There are going to be plenty of people who disagree with the decisions the Senator made. I am actually one of those people.
But it seems a shame to turn away successful alumni because their politics don't align with your own.
Taken to its logical extreme, this kind of protest would lead to convocations inviting only apolitical speakers. And in a field like education, I'm not sure what an apolitical speaker even looks like.