On July 30, thousands of citizens who worry about the impact of federal policy upon public education will unite at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. in common cause to say enough is enough.
In the last few years, we’ve seen millions of federal and foundation dollars pour into education nonprofits, charter management companies, and corporate test prep pockets at the expense of children in our regular public schools. Meanwhile, we’ve stepped backward in our efforts to provide pre-school education to even our most needy children. The arts have been downsized and eliminated in many school districts across the country sending a strong message to young people about the value of our culture to the nation. Unlike their parents’ generation, today’s students often are assessed fees to participate in all things extracurricular so that districts can continue to offer athletic, club, and after-school programs. Hundreds of thousands of educational positions have been cut despite an increasing number of students attending schools across the country. Teachers are demoralized by the constant barrage of negative stories promoted by a media that seems to be swayed more by corporate headquarters than the reality of classrooms of dedicated educators. We’ve seen more and more focus on standardization of “one size fits all” curricula, testing programs, and instructional expectations. The art and science of teaching has been reduced to a checklist. Programs of excellence such as the National Writing Project have lost full funding from the federal government. And, America’s children have become the most tested generation in the world’s history.
Perhaps some participate in this due to ignorance. Some may be in it to make money. A few may desire to preserve a status quo of classicism. Others may simply think it’s the right path to take.
We know, however, that if we were doing the right thing, the world would be on our doorstep trying to figure out how to copy our educational work. It happens in many other sectors, but not education. Instead, no major country in the world sees emulation of our current educational programming as worthwhile.
Rather than look to us, others turn to “little” Finland to find examples of practices worth adopting. We all know what Finland does to get results. Teaching is a regarded profession there. Professional educators are provided the time to plan and think together. Learning is emphasized. Testing is not. In classrooms, noticing children is key to understanding how young people learn and what the teacher can do to support learners. Early childhood education – preschool- is available to all. Scaffolding resources necessary to create resilient families has been a critical commitment of the government.
A critical mass of citizens across the country says we need to put ourselves on a different path. They’re not in it for money, power, or prestige. They’re uniting because they believe that America’s schools need community, state, and federal support, not sanctions, to meet critical challenges. They know we need to make changes to teach contemporary learners well and put us on equal footing with the best educational systems in the world today.
The Jedi Knights come this week to Washington, D.C. They represent America’s Teachers of the Year, National Board Certified Teachers, educational leaders, parents, students, teachers, authors, social activists, school board members, superintendents, and school administrators. They represent citizens who believe in the power of public education to ensure that our nation preserves a democratic way of life. These citizens understand that our national security and economic future is a function of our abiding commitment to public education. They value the dedication of generations of communities to building schools, hiring teachers, and sending their children to school to “get an education.”
This week, they come to the capital of our country to exercise our First Amendment rights to assemble, petition, and speak freely.
They come to say enough is enough.
“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
— Thomas Jefferson