Potential Grizzlies

Making the Nonsense Bearable

Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado - Boulder

Published 2021

If all humor does indeed come from pain, then American educational policymaking has been a petri dish brimming with hilarity. Even before Betsy DeVos ascended to her perch atop the U.S. Department of Education, her predecessors had offered up an excruciating decade of fodder for satire. Ably assisted by a bevy of billionaires, foundations, and advocacy think tanks, these policymakers unleashed a torrent of rhetorical gibberish and evidence-free “innovations” on the nation’s children and their schools.

Potential Grizzlies: Making the Nonsense Bearable is one researcher’s attempt to laugh instead of cry. The book will bring back memories of policymakers from more innocent times, from Michelle Rhee to Arne Duncan to Chris Christie. Sit back and relax with fond thoughts of your favorite policies, from testing to school choice to “parent trigger.” Or maybe just smile and imagine a day when policymakers turn to research evidence and knowledgeable educators to build a sound future for our children.

Praise for Potential Grizzlies: Making the Nonsense Bearable:

"Kevin Welner deftly skewers every phony reform fad of the past twenty years with a sharp blade, neatly removing head from body without leaving a trace. He says in a few cleverly chosen anecdotes what many of us have tried to prove in laborious tomes. The so-called "reform" movement is a hoax. Read it and laugh!"
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University, and author of Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools

"During these days of grim headlines, Potential Grizzlies provides welcome relief. With clever twists about "reformers" and their projects, Welner captures the tragic hilarity of what friends of public schools have lived through for the past decades. Every time I thought I read the most hilarious "tweak" of ed reform, I would find a new favorite a few pages later. A must-read for those who have waged the fight against NCLB, Race to the Top, privatization, and of course Betsy DeVos."
Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education, and author of On the Same Track: How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First-Century Struggle against Resegregation

"Welner expertly jumbles satire, research and education reform into this must-read book, which simultaneously covers where we’ve come from, why, and where we are going with education reform. Honestly I’m angry that my blog is not as funny as this. Read it, unless you don’t have a funny bone."
Julian Vasquez Heilig, Dean and Professor, University of Kentucky College of Education

Foreword by David Berliner. Acknowledgements. Introduction. CHAPTER ONE: The Use of Research (or Not) By Policymakers. CHAPTER TWO: Reforminess. CHAPTER THREE: School Choice. CHAPTER FOUR: Reading Wars. CHAPTER FIVE: Billionaires and Their Buddies. CHAPTER SIX: Those Dreadful Teachers. CHAPTER SEVEN: Deregulation, Crisis, and Closure. CHAPTER EIGHT: Parent Trigger. CHAPTER NINE: Budget Reduction. CHAPTER TEN: Class Size. CHAPTER ELEVEN: Stratified Opportunity. CHAPTER TWELVE: Growth Mindset. CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Screen Time. CHAPTER FOURTEEN: MOOCs. CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Higher Ed Grade Inflation. CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Guns. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Childhood Obesity and Marketing. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: COVID-19.