Challenging the Good News Narrative
In 1920, the American School Board Journal featured a series of articles telling educators that advertising plays an important role in all well-managed campaigns to secure increased school support. Over the past century, the belief that feeding our citizens a steady diet of good news generates public support for our schools has become deeply embedded in the culture of our educational leaders. As a result, much, if not most, of the communication from the vast majority of our school districts is basically an advertising strategy designed to make everyone feel good about their schools. This feel-good strategy, however, is not working. In fact, it is doing the opposite of what it is intended to do. It is undermining public support for our schools. Telling citizens only the good news about their public schools is manipulative and deceptive, and many people know it. In addition, it comes across as sounding arrogant and boastful and puts to sleep the very people whose active ownership and support is so greatly needed. Instead of lulling our citizens into a false sense of security by telling them all is well and they have nothing to worry about, they need to be awoken. They need to be exposed to problems and opportunities facing their schools and given an opportunity to step up and make a difference.