What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?


The stopgap federal spending bill that President Barack Obama signed into law yesterday almost certainly spells the end of federal funding for more than a dozen education programs, at least for two weeks, quite possibly for good.

The bill would scrap all federal funding for the current year for a number of programs that were considered “earmarks” under congressional rules, because they got non-competitive funds, directed just for them. Some senators protested on behalf of the groups, but it may have been too late—the cuts went through anyway.

The list of funding cuts includes:

National Writing Project—$25.6 million
Teach for America—$18 million
Reading is Fundamental—$24.8 million
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—$10.7 million
New Leaders for New Schools—$5 million
Arts in Education—$40 million
We the People—$21.6 million
Close Up fellowships—$1.9 million
Exchanges With Historic Whaling and Trading Partners—$8.6 million
Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity program—$3 million
B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships—nearly $1 million

The programs could get money from the department under other funding streams. But more likely than not, most of them aren’t going to get any more funding from the feds, possibly forever.

It’s been a rather dark month for public educators.  Important ideas and organizations I and others hold dear are under attack.  At this moment, it would be so easy to let the angry voices win, to rage and fume and fuss and whine and complain and surrender to the rhetoric that makes teachers out to be the bad guys.  And the thoughtful stuff that we believe in to be a distraction.

It would feel nice to call names and scream screams and otherwise cynically retreat into mumbles of nonproductive foolishness.  It would be cathartic even.

But that wouldn’t be the right thing to do.  No.  The right thing to do is to take a deep breath, pause for a moment of reflection, and then to talk back.  Kindly.  Firmly.  Consistently.

I was reminded of this last night as I remembered a moment in the past where things looked dark for public television.1  And a man I admire very much gently spoke truth to power.  And helped restored the funding.

Which is why I even know him at all. 2

Take a look.  Then think about what you do with the mad that you feel.  And consider what you might do with it instead.


  1. Everything old is new again.  Things look dark for PBS and NPR rather cyclically. []
  2. This was fifteen years before I would spend afternoons with him and my mom on the old corduroy couch. I miss those days. []