Effectiveness of Non-traditional Direct Action Kony Campaign

New Orleans    In organizing, even in the smallest space of a neighborhood, we have always argued that you have to “create a happening” where the coming new organization seems to be everywhere on the tip of tongues, laundromat posters, telephone poles, mailings, and whatever tools could be assembled.  The same is true of a political campaign where immersion and momentum are essential in creating a sense of urgency, momentum, and even inevitability.

In the new world of modern communications and emerging campaign tools, I’ve kept an eye on the Kony Campaign being mounted by the young, upstart Invisible Children organization with an open mind to learning whatever is possible.  I knew it was something serious not when it got millions of hits on YouTube because with all respect so do some cat pictures, but when established international NGOs started criticizing them.  Then I saw a Kony 2012 campaign packet on the dining room table of some friends in Madison.  I started noticing that there were different posters and exhortations on all of the community bulletin boards at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.  Something was happening here.  This guy, Joseph Kony and his ragtag 300 person Lord’s Resistance Army,  had to be “dead man walking!”

Now with a hundred American military advisors on the ground helping, the effectiveness of the campaign seems verifiable.   And, truth to tell, this could not have been about the video piece.  That’s sizzle.  This group had to have had steak to leverage a bill through Congress – how many groups can make that happen these days – and trigger the authority of military involvement, which is almost impossible to achieve.  The video was from 2012.  But, Invisible Children managed to pass the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Action in 2010.  The US has spent almost a half-billion in this area of Uganda now!  They may be one-hit wonders, but they are teaching here, and I’m ready to be a student.

Here’s a quote from a story in the Times:

Yet no other American military project in sub-Saharan Africa has generated the attention — and the high expectations — as the pursuit of Mr. Kony, partly thanks to a wildly popular video on Mr. Kony’s notorious elusiveness and brutality, “Kony 2012,” that set YouTube records with tens of millions of hits in a matter of days. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the overall commander of American forces in Africa, has a “Kony 2012” poster tacked to his office door. As one American official put it: “Let’s be honest, there was some constituent pressure here. Did ‘Kony 2012’ have something to do with this? Absolutely.”

To me that sounds like an endorsement of campaigning strategy AND tactics.


Military Schools Trump Charters in a Vote for Equity and Anti-Racism

New Orleans               News flash from the military of all places!

If you create a level of equity and seek to eliminate racism in the classroom, results will shine, and you will out public schools.  If you try to teach and actually educate children, rather than “teaching to the test,” their reading and other scores on those same tests will surpass their competitors.    In a column in the Times by Michael Winerip we got some good news for a chance from unexpected, uniformed sources.

The comparisons were stark.  Where states are uniformly muscling in on local school district governance and educational programs (he uses TN as an example, but Louisiana is the frontrunner!), the military “doesn’t micromanage” in fact they claim to let, “Individual schools decide     what to focus on.”  The class sizes on average are 18:1, on a par with private schools, despite the nay saying about class size from Mayor Bloomberg and other so-called reformers.  Relationships between military and their unions in the classrooms are smooth, imagine that, but of course collective bargaining and seeking agreements continues to be implemented federal policy so perhaps that should not be a surprise.

An op-ed in the same edition of the Times by several education experts, Helen Ladd from Duke and Edward Fiske formerly the Times education editor, underscores the same points.  The gut grabber:  “The Occupy movement has catalyzed rising anxiety over income inequality; we desperately need a similar reminder of the relationship between economic advantage and student performance.”  Hello!

In their argument they cite a new study that continues to find a huge achievement gap between high-and low-income children over the last 50 years that is even greater that the gaps created by race.  In fact one of the advantages the military seems to enjoy is the ability to press down those gaps in their classrooms where the differences are a matter of grade, not of class.  Ladd and Fiske note that nothing in Leave No Child Behind recognizes this reality, which is another reason for its abysmal failure under both the Bush and now the Obama Administrations, which continue to pretend to be income and color blind while children suffer without remediation.

Interestingly, the United States military has no choice.  They have to produce the kind of citizens they want to fill uniforms in the future, and keep happy the ones that are wearing them now, none of which seems to matter much to too many administrators in their flight to fashion and away from the children.  That’s their business.

The experts argue that it’s a question of morality for the country and past time citizens and their leaders faced up to the challenge.

Good luck with that.  The military seems to know that it has a job to do and there are consequences to failure.  For the rest of us, morality might be the question, but that turns out to be one of the easies questions American citizens have to ignore.