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Education in the Media, Leadership and Activism, Philosophical Meanderings

Occupy your classroom

DSC05584 by Berkeley Unified School District

DSC05584 by Berkeley Unified School District

Michelle McNeil, reporting on ESEA Flexibility, September 28th, 2011:

To be freed from [NCLB’s 100% proficiency] 2014 deadline, and to have more flexibility in using Title I money, states will have to agree to do three main things. They will have to adopt college- and career-ready standards and tie state tests to them….

Arne Duncan speaking at the Education Sector Forum, September 30th, 2011:

“Paper-and-pencil licensure tests for teachers are not rigorous, meaningful, or useful….”

There exists a naked ambition amongst the networked and privileged #edreformers to measure learning by test scores, to measure teachers by test scores, to measure teacher preparation programs by test scores, and to use the wealth of billionaires to insure that all media-covered and -sponsored conversations about the purpose of public education come back to test scores.

There is nothing in the unseemly and Constitutionally suspect federal agenda that does not explicitly benefit an individual, organization, or school system helmed by one of the yes-persons paying homage to a fellow yes-person in the public-private mash-up that is – in my estimation – our President’s attempt to get by on the money of billionaires rather than the money of education unions, with whom I disagree on labor relations, homeschooling, and some pedagogy.

Frankly, I am heartbroken and greatly angered by the cynicism and hypocrisy of it all – it’s as if President Obama, Arne Duncan, and the handful of would-be crusaders from Class Warfare have decided to spin the law using executive decrees so that they can advance their education agenda no matter what. Forgive me my naiveté – my guys? No! Couldn’t be!

I decry No Child Left Behind for its subservience to standardized testing and all the damage it does to education in the name of schooling. It is so important that we assume accountability for gifting an inspiring education to every child; it is also so important that we understand there are better ways to assess ourselves and our students than standardized tests.

However, No Child Left Behind is the law, and I don’t decry the rule of law. It’s better to dismantle standardized testing legally than to create more opportunities for testing growth on standardized tests outside of NCLB.

And it’s better to protest than to pretend.

If you would occupy your statehouse to keep your job, pay, and benefits, please also consider occupying your classroom.

  • Give your students at least a day a week to follow their passions.
  • Get rid of your furniture. Help kids borrow, bring, or build their own.
  • Get rid of your textbooks. Or redact them.
  • Ask kids to make sense of the world as it happens across media and technologies.
  • Build communities instead of reinforcing expectations.

It will be very scary, but not as scary as what others face. It will be very uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as remaining silent. It will cost us some, but without making some sacrifice we shouldn’t expect or ask our students to save us or our world.

About Chad Sansing

I teach for the users. Opinions are mine; content is ours.


27 thoughts on “Occupy your classroom

  1. Right on Chad! Shared Shared and Shared! I took part in my first Occupy GA in Eugene today… and help facilitate the Collective Visioning Committee… the process is messy, but I tried my best to use my understanding of leaderless movements learned on the Cooperative to help it stay positive and powerful!

    I wish we could all be in the same room!


    Posted by David Loitz | October 5, 2011, 4:14 am
  2. To me Chad this is exactly and powerfully right. I’m down for all your 5 bullet points and will share this widely. Begin in the classroom with your own occupation!

    Thank you,


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | October 5, 2011, 7:55 am
    • That’s exactly it – we need to begin an occupation of our occupation. Only in our classrooms will we find counter-narratives to the dog-and-pony shows surrounding “competitive” grant programs designed to reward those who don’t compete with the federal/billionaire interest in education.


      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 5, 2011, 9:04 am
  3. Chad,

    I am old and cranky, and be coming more so with each day. Still, the passion you express almost ignites in me a desire to take action against the machine. I cast my 2008 ballot as I did despite not buying “Change we can believe in”. My experience in litigating issues involving politicians and governmental entities makes it impossible for me to form such a belief.

    Arne Duncan’s comments are telling. The DoEd is not about “the children” – it never has been. As an attorney, I typically tell my clients to “follow the money”, or the power, or the sex (with regard to replicative and devolutionary functions). Following one or more of these interwoven threads will lead to The issue. This line of analysis has never failed my clients or me – it is that simple.

    It is better to protest than pretend. It is even better to live in conformity with one’s beliefs to the extent possible.

    Youths learn when they are good and ready, will learn what they are most interested in, will do it in a way they are most comfortable with and from sources they trust. Assist them in building communities with one another. Avoid feeding them the “winner-take-all” goal of competition for they will assuredly become what they eat.

    Youths need a place, a space in which to live (and they will all go someplace). Help them occupy the heck out of the classrooms, even if for one out of five ‘school days’ per week.


    Posted by Brent Snavely | October 5, 2011, 8:13 am
    • Brent – thank you. I find your insights and honesty helpful in pursuing the work I value.

      There is now way for us to shrug off our responsibilities – as citizens, care-takers, and/or educators – to do all we can to nurture kids’ curiosity and communities. Schools too often ask us to suppress both. If we are willing to stand up for our money, we should first – or concurrently – be willing to stand up for a public education system, country, and world better than those we have now that allows us the filthy luxuries of extraordinary rendition, debt trading, and superlegal assassination. We need to break the ignorance machine of corporate, governmental, and media interests. It would be a start to help kids see how much better learning can be so that as adults they, perhaps, don’t wind up split into factions arguing whether or not tax money should be used to help tax-payers and those who don’t make enough to be taxed. The general welfare is, by definition, the general welfare, and we dropped the Articles of Confederation for several good reasons, some of which we recognized at the time – and some of which we better appreciate now.

      Can you tell I have some feelings about where we are?

      Happy to be here with you and the Coöp,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 5, 2011, 9:03 am
      • Chad,

        I like your reference to ‘responsibilities’. In matters connected to the U.S. Constitution, there is a great deal of talk about ‘rights’ and little regarding ‘responsibilities’. Responsiblity to and for oneself, others, community, broader society and ‘the world’ is multi-faceted and oftentimes lost in the dust raised by arguments largely comprised of 30-second sound-bites.

        I have some of the same concerns that you voice. Catch-phrases and ‘trial balloons’ solve nothing, so here is to spending time to discuss and share one’s passions with others!


        Posted by Brent Snavely | October 5, 2011, 9:59 am
    • Brent, you rule. I so appreciate your voice here at the Co-op. Thanks.

      Posted by mindyfitch | October 5, 2011, 11:13 pm
  4. Chad. Thank You. You are correct, it is always better to protest, than pretend! I am constantly astounded by politicians attempts to regulate and drive tests through a money carrot, to direct the way schools operate and teach. If teachers are willing to collectively bargain their salaries then they must be willing to collectively bargain learning as well — appealing to the masses and understanding true, authentic learning, not clouded or attached to any type of social, political or class conditions.

    Posted by caseykcaronna | October 5, 2011, 12:19 pm
    • The conditions and divisions of policy and cliques need to be uprooted from our schools. Thanks for reading and commenting, Casey – I’ll carry that phrase – “must be willing to collectively bargain learning, as well” – with me.


      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 5, 2011, 8:48 pm
  5. Chad, brilliant work here. Love this.


    Posted by stevemiranda | October 5, 2011, 12:23 pm
    • Thank you, Steve – I look at models like your school – like Jamie’s – like many of the classrooms in which we work – and I wonder how far we are from a tipping point and why we haven’t yet crossed it.

      There is no relief for our kids coming from government. We can provide it in the form of educations that matter to each child.

      How can our models communicate with public education in such a way that we build after them?


      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 5, 2011, 8:46 pm
  6. Chad, what if we were to do something like this?

    Have teachers take pictures of themselves and post messages about how they are taking back or reclaiming public education?

    #OccupyWallSt is a great model for this.


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | October 5, 2011, 3:10 pm
  7. Awesome. Future teacher here.

    Posted by Marie Smith | October 7, 2011, 4:44 pm
  8. please join us at Occupy EDU on Facebook and tell us how you are going to occupy your classroom to make it better for your students and learning…. Please submit them to or
    We are inspired by the “We are the 99%” messages spreading across tumblr and social media sites.

    We will collect stories about your classrooms, what you are fighting against and what are you doing to change it.

    What do you want for your classroom and your students? What kind of education do you believe in?

    Join us here and start transforming education! Reclaiming our Voice in Education!

    Please Submit Write your stories and take a picture and submit here.

    Posted by dloitz | October 7, 2011, 5:34 pm
  9. Chad,

    You say “it is also so important that we understand there are better ways to assess ourselves and our students than standardized tests.”

    What are those better ways?

    Posted by ken baker | October 7, 2011, 7:40 pm
    • Ken, thanks for your question. I’m a fan of Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence and – like him – I believe that excellent work should stand as evidence of excellent learning. At the state level, I think we can and should invest in a sampling of interdisciplinary student portfolios juried against common-sense common standards of communication. At the school level, I think we should help students engage in deep, interdisciplinary inquiry every year so that students leave each year of school with clear, affirming evidence of their learning in a portfolio that’s juried as some kind of presentation to a panel of peers, school personnel, and community members and artisans.

      What kind of assessment would you like to see Ken?

      All the best,

      Posted by Chad Sansing | October 7, 2011, 8:05 pm
  10. I’m blogging on this today. Let us know if we can do anything to help! Antioch’s got a long history of just this kind of organizing.


    Posted by antiochcriticalskills | October 14, 2011, 9:03 am
  11. It’s time for a new educational reform perspective. Check out No Child Held Back at to join the conversation!

    Posted by Renee Nmya | October 31, 2011, 10:11 am
  12. This is an inspiring manifesto. I’ve been passionate about bottom-up education reform since my son entered first grade. I came to a different conclusion about the solution to this problem, but it is so great to start reading so many different voices raised on this subject.

    Posted by karendanzah | May 11, 2012, 5:10 pm


  1. Pingback: My Visit To #occupyphilly « Cooperative Catalyst - October 12, 2011

  2. Pingback: We are the 90% « The Critical Skills Classroom - October 14, 2011

  3. Pingback: What Can We Learn from #occupyphilly? » Philly Teacher - October 15, 2011

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