Damn It Feels Good 2 Be A Reformer

My day (and night) of living large

reform robeReader: since the moment I first learned of the deluxe camp for education reformers in the Adirondacks being hosted by my friends at Democrats for Education Reform, I longed to join in the fun. But there was a problem. As a member of the press (technically) and a low net worth individual (most definitely), the exclusive doors of Camp Philos were shut tight against the likes of me. Then, genius struck, as it so often does around the cocktail hour. If I couldn’t actually attend Camp Philos, could I not try on DFER’s *reform robe* for a day (and a night)? Why yes I could! 


All this and more
I checked into my room(s) at Lake Placid’s exclusive Whiteface Lodge just as soon as DFER’s exercise in championing America’s public school children had wrapped up. But what to do first? Well that was obvious. Having already donned the robe of reform, I happily sampled the freshly baked chocolate chip cookie of college and career readiness that awaited me. But hark! There was someone at the door. Was it possible that DFER man knew of my arrival and had sent a bottle of Dom Perignon White Gold to welcome me? Alas, no; it was merely a member of the lodge’s extensive staff delivering ice door to door because, well, that’s how they roll here.

philos IIRarified air
It was time for my self-guided exploration of Whiteface Lodge’s expansive grounds. (Note: I removed the robe of reform at this point so as not to call attention to myself). And what expansive grounds they were, reader, the Adirondack peaks rising like high expectations all around me. In fact, I had but barely taken in the amenitiesthe indoor/outdoor swimming pool, the tennis and paddle courts, the ice skating rink, philos Icomplete with delightful outdoor warming huts furnished with period Adirondackian furnishings, and the marshmallow roasting stationand I was already ready to switch teams. If this was what it was like to *put students first,* I was all about it. But first things first. Breathing all of this rarefied air was making me quite thirsty…

Philos 2
Bottoms up, gentlemen

Besides, I hoped that I might encounter DFER man himself in the lounge, chillaxing after a long three days of talking teacher prep, collective bargaining and *Tight-Loose Models for Ensuring All Kids Have Access to a Great Education.* And there he was, looking very chillaxed indeed! Bottoms up, gentlemenand don’t worry; I didn’t hear a thing 😉 

Money aint a thang
Whiteface Lodge staff members seemed dazzled by DFER man, not so much by the fierce urgency of his ideas, but by the sheer size of his bankroll. You see, this was the first time in the history of the four diamond resort that anyone had ever had the coin, let alone the cojones, to take over the entire place. But even a wall of cash isn’t always enough to keep out the undesirables. The Picket in the Pines, that greeted the kick off of Camp Philos with some 400 protesting teachers, was the talk of Lake Placid for days, including at the Lodge. Staff members, who’d been tasked with feeding and watering the campers, were vague about the purpose of the gathering. “I know they want to get rid of bad teachers,” one staffer told me. Coincidentally, he’d trained to be a teacher himself but after watching teacher relatives and friends endure recent waves of DFER-style reform, concluded that he’s better off at the Lodge than in the classroom.

philosophers campPhilosophers’ Camp
But there was another reason why I’d longed to venture to the Adirondacks besides my desire to see for myself how DFER does. You see, long before I began blogging, or worked for AFT and developed a fierce taste for the status quo, I earned a PhD in 19th century American literature. So I knew about the original Philosophers’ Camp—and yet my recollection of Emerson, Agassiz and the merry band of Massachusetts thinkers who camped here in the summer of 1858 bore little resemblance to DFER’s version of the event. I didn’t remember the part, for example, about the original camp consisting of bankers and politicians on lay-away. And whereas DFER’s Philosopher’s Camp [sic] was closed to anyone not down with the group’s particular brand of #edreform, the 10 original campers were deeply divided over the big issues of the day, including evolution and the relationship between religion and science. That’s not to say that there weren’t any similarities between the two gatherings. All of the original campers were Harvard men who were *ill equipped for roughing it in the woods.* And both camps will likely turn out to have been short lived.

philos picsBack 2 reality
Speaking of short lived, the end of my experiment in living large was rapidly drawing nigh. I patted farewell to the robe of reform and the 1,000 count sheets (did you even know they went up that high???) I blinked back tears as the front desk person described the private beach on Mirror Lake, available only to Lodge-goers, for I knew that I would almost certainly never stay at Whiteface Lodge again. Not only do I seem to have chosen the least lucrative side of the education reform wars, but the man to whom I’m *technically* married regards any trip longer than three hours as constituting *a full day* and hence, of no interest. 

Note: my stay at Whiteface Lodge was paid for by the people’s expense account. When I announced my interest in attending Camp Philos, people from across the country chipped in to pay for my ticket, including two different teachers from Hawaii and an extraordinarily generous gentleman from Springfield, IL. (Thanks dad!) Thanks to your support I caught a glimpse of DFER’s world that I’m unlikely to forget anytime soon…

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  1. “Politicians on layaway”

    You want to trademark that, because I most definitely plan to steal it.

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