THE BLOG
12/28/2012 06:34 pm ET | Updated Feb 27, 2013

Student Activism Revisited

Almost six months ago, I first wrote about a movement called Six PAC. I said then, and still believe, that Six PAC is a vehicle that can and very possibly will change the face of American education. Six PAC is a political action committee with the express goal of creating an instrument with which students can gain better access to the education reform process. Whether that be through Congressional lobbying efforts on a federal level or student placement on education reform commissions in individual states, Six PAC calls for student representation in the education reform process. So looking around, has anything changed? Has Six PAC revolutionized education? Are students gaining a louder voice?

While it is clear that education is still the same as it has been for the past 60 years, it is important we look at some behind the scenes action. Under the surface, groups like Six PAC, Students for Education Reform, The Presidential Youth Council and many more are mobilizing for a greater student voice in the legislative process. All of these groups use tactics that are unique to our era of student activism. Gone are the days of protest marches and sit-ins, most contemporary action happens in cyberspace. Campaigns use Change.org to petition for students on education reform commissions. They use twitter talks to host "town halls," simulating active conversation with rank and file members and, hopefully, celebrities and politicians.

Beyond these organization's powerful social media presences, they have one more trick up their sleeves. Contemporary student reform organizations use a "divide and conquer" strategy, with a national committee that oversees the organization's internet brand and national appeal with local chapters established at high schools and colleges that can lobby state representatives or governments. Conducted correctly, this can allow any organization with even a shoestring budget to have operatives in California, New York and Florida, all while having a national operations team that hails from North Carolina, Kansas and Missouri. By creating a national coalition for their cause, these groups simulate a sense of consensus, a powerful tool in the legislative process. While an active social media presence helps develop these groups, selecting and establishing target chapters that can make or break activism based organizations.

So has education been revolutionized? In a word, no. But every day, there are groups that are actively working to make reform, in education and otherwise, a reality. American education has failed a generation of students. We continue to fall behind on international tests in science, math and literature. Such results will have disastrous consequences. Education reform has been tried before, and unfortunately, we can never seem to get it right. I believe, following Six PAC's philosophy, that is because we have continually under-represented the most affected stakeholder in education -- students. Students deserve a voice, and that voice is not only important, but essential to crafting effective education policy.

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