For the foreseeable future, the battle to save public education from uncontrolled testing and Corporate control will not be won at the national level. Both political parties are in the pockets of the billionaire reformers, and the national leadership of teachers unions are desperately trying to save their organizations by making compromises that will leave them free to fight another day, if in fact there is anything left worth fighting for.
This means that teachers, students and parents are on their own in challenging policies which dumb down the curriculum, undermine creative thinking, squeeze out the arts, and put young people’s health at risk by eliminating physical activity both during and after school.
Every policy being promoted nationally, by both political parties, works to turn schools into zones of fear and stress for students and those who work in them. All across the nation, these policies are producing a simmering rage. But since that rage gets no support or recognition from elected officials, and is largely disregarded by commercial media, most people nurture their rage in private, or in small groups discussions among families or friends.
This is where we — education activists — come in. Whether we are teachers, principals, parents, students or just concerned citizens, we must provide leadership on the local level which affirms the validity of this rage and turns it into action.
The first step is to join the discussions about how public education is being destroyed wherever it takes place. At the workplace, in the hair salon, at little league practice, in the doctor’s office, at PTA and union meetings. Let people know that they are not alone, that there are national organizations working to help people fight back to against excessive testing, restore play, arts, and recess, and stop the closing of schools against the wishes of the communities they are located in.
Wear buttons, pass out flyers, make everyone in contact with you know where you stand. And don’t worry about political affiliation. When it comes to fighting to make sure children enjoy school and are not beaten down by testing,, you will find support runs the gamut from the Tea Party to revolutionary Socialists.
Then start organizing local actions that are winnable, whether it involves picketing school boards to demand the restoration of sports arts and music, or collective actions that involve opting out or walking out of tests. Make your protests fun and sponsor dinners and picnics and benefit concerts to promote your activities. And once you get a following, start working on local elected officials to get them to support you.
You are much likely to make headway with people who depend on their election for parent and teacher votes, than with national party officials who depend on big contributions from billionaire education reforms to fund their campaigns.
Having raised my voice about the threat to public education at every venue I have mentioned — at the salon where I get my hair cut, at my grand daughter’s track practice, in my office at work, at my tennis club and at family gatherings and parties to which I have been invited — I can assure you that a growing variety of people agree with me that excessive testing is destroying our schools.
So don’t give up and don’t beat your head against the wall because your Governor and both Presidential candidates won’t listen to a word you stay.
This battle has to be won one neighborhood, one school, and one city at a time. When something this wrong has been unleashed, we have to give people the confidence to follow their own best instincts. We must not only become leaders, we must try to become the heroes we spent our lives looking up to. The crisis we face demands nothing less.
With a Brooklyn Accent
Posted: Satruday, 30 June 2012