Today, I am pleased to announce the addition of our newest Eclectablogger, Dr. Mitchell Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Education department at Michigan State University. He has his own blog at MitchellRobinson.net and has guest posted several pieces here at Eclectablog. His fine writing skills are matched by his thoughtfulness on education policy, particularly as it relates to public education and the corrosive impact of for-profit charter schools on our public school system. I am thrilled to have him on our team.
Here is a brief interview to introduce Dr. Robinson to our Eclectablog community.
Welcome to the team, Mitchell. Please tell us a bit about yourself; your background, where you’re from, family, etc.
I grew up in a big family in Western New York, on an island in the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. My parents instilled a love of learning in all of us, and music was always an important part of our lives. We were all involved in the school music program, and I’m grateful that my family and community valued public education, including strong music and academics.
You’re a music professor and administrator. What brought you to writing about politics and public policy issues?
I really think of myself as a school music teacher—my students are just older and taller now. My interest in policy issues comes from two places: The belief that all students deserve the same access to high quality schools that offer a rich, diverse curriculum—including music—from which I benefitted; and, recognizing the need to defend my colleagues and my profession from attacks from politicians and policy makers, few of whom ever studied education or taught anything. Our current educational “scene” is characterized by a battle being waged on an uneven playing field—the corporate reformers have a virtually unlimited war chest from their wealthy funders, and use it to employ legions of bloggers, “journalists,” and social media watchdogs who exert a great deal of influence on the shape of our discourse. On the other side are parents, teachers, and teacher educators, all with full time jobs, who are fighting back on their lunch breaks and in their spare time. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. Our public schools and our teachers are a national treasure, and should be treated as such.
What sorts of issues will you be writing about at Eclectablog?
My focus is on education policy—the issues that impact students, teachers, schools, and communities. Things like the tension between traditional public schools and charter schools, teacher evaluation, teacher tenure, privatization of school services, standardized testing and the opt out movement, and school funding.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Are you doing it now or is there something more you’d like to do, given the opportunity?
I never wanted to do anything else but make and teach music, so I feel like I’ve achieved my “dream job.” As a school teacher, I was able to help my students make music, and now I get to help my students become music teachers themselves—it’s a great honor and responsibility, and one that I take very seriously. As a faculty member at a Big Ten university, I also have the “platform” to advocate for my profession in ways that my colleagues in the schools do not, so I feel like it’s my job to push back against the corporate reform agenda so my colleagues can do their jobs. It’s another responsibility that I take seriously, and I appreciate the opportunity to join the team at Eclectablog to continue this work.
What’s one interesting thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m a two-time winner of the MSU College of Music Chili Cook-Off, and was a “celebrity judge” for the Lansing Board of Water and Light Chili Competition. I am uncommonly obsessed with all things chili.