Let’s not be our own worst enemies: Upcoming education forum should hear out others, including ‘out-of-state’ interests, too

Some like to think the secret to winning over West Virginians is appealing to pride in their state.

You know, our innate ability to know more and to do anything … better.

We are not convinced that an upcoming series of public forums will find the answer to education reform.

However, starting Monday these forums — intended to pave the way for a special session of the Legislature on this issue — get under way, the first near Huntington.

Seven such forums are scheduled, with the nearest to us, April 1 in Clarksburg; and another April 2 in Wheeling.

Yet, recent statements by state teachers’ union leaders incline us to believe some positions may only harden as a result of these forums. And the actions and statements by legislative leaders at the end of this year’s regular session were hardly promising.

Let’s be clear. We agree, these forums are a “golden opportunity,” as one union leader put it, to hear from the experts — the people in the classrooms.

As one teachers’ union leader put it, “We can get advice from the true experts, the West Virginia experts.”

We were encouraged he also included parents, students, community and board members and administrators among those experts.

Yet, he went on to seemingly qualify only those “ … that are here in West Virginia, not coming from out-of-state interest groups.”

Yes, there is a differential for whose opinions carry more weight on this subject. But insisting on a West Virginians-first attitude is wrongheaded.

That in no way should be construed to dismiss any West Virginian’s opinion, either.

Yet, these forums should be given free rein to hear from all parties, including “out-of-state” interests.

For the record, most of us are not experts on  education. But most of us have the good sense to listen to those who are — from West Virginia and elsewhere.

There’s a lot to be said for putting state experts first, with their knowledge and experience about how things work in our schools.

Yet, there’s a lot to be said for someone with a background in education who doesn’t know how things work in our schools, too.

Not only do you get a fresh set of eyes on a school system in need of reforms, but you also get someone whose singular goal is results.

Someone who’s not beholden to any political party, any union, any school district, anyone.

The only American president with a background in education once said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

Let’s hear everyone out, including others from out of state, and not become our own worst enemy.

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