So, a few days back, I wrote about privilige and power. It might have come across as complacent or sanctimonious. However, I want to make this really clear: I’m pissed.
I’m pissed that we continue to fund war without question while schools are stuck hawking “holiday paper” (because, you know, there are a ton of people buying Kwanza presents), candied hams and cookie dough.
I’m pissed that my students spend almost a quarter of the year taking tests and that the annual 30 hour test is longer than the Bar Exam, the MCATS, the teacher certification test and pretty much every other test required of adult professionals. And I’m pissed that when a teacher points out the flaws of the test, he or she is accused of “low expectations” and trouble-making.
I’m pissed that the laws are formed by transnational corporations who create curriculum, “advise” on standards, push for accountability and then provide the resources, tutoring and conferences that help people reach a standard that they cannot attain (as long as every question is re-normed for fifty percent). It’s more rigged than a casino and Chuck-E-Cheese combined.
I’m pissed that a president who won the support of labor unions applauded the firing of all teachers at a Rhode Island school and chose a man who committed fraud in his “Chicago Miracle.” Arne Duncan’s teardrops did not really cure leprosy, but you’d never guess that when listening to the media gush over his accomplishments.
I’m pissed that we have shipped off factories to other countries and yet we continue to run school in a factory model. And I’m pissed that so few people are even asking whether or not school should exist to serve the economic markets in the first place.
I’m pissed that the solutions are more of what doesn’t work: extra homework, traditional grades, longer hours, more accountability, merit pay, etc.
I’m pissed that the government holds eight-year olds to a higher level of accountability than the folks on Wall Street who bankrupt our nation.
I’m pissed that the government demands that Palestine and Israel show tolerance for one another and yet we tout Zero Tolerance as the conflict-resolution solution within our schools.
I’m pissed that teachers can’t afford to pay for their own children’s health care and yet we are labeled as “free loaders” who feel “entitled” when we fight against the attack on collective bargaining. I’m pissed that we’re told that we need to “share the burden,” when we never got to “share the blessings” during the bull market era.
I’m pissed that the media, the corporations and the politicians have framed the debate so that educators fight against one another instead of fighting for real, authentic, meaningful change. The war is not between un-school, home-school, private school, charter school or public school. In fact, it’s not really a war at all. It’s a grassroots movement. It’s an unstoppable rhizome of people saying, “it’s time for us to take back our voice.” Ultimately that voice is why I shift from anger to hope.
What about our demands? What about that list, that agenda, that bulleted list of talking points? How can you claim to occupy education if you don’t have a goddam list?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you my list that I wrote down in five minutes:
- Listen to students, parents and teachers and allow them to be an integral part of the decision-making process.
- Foster creativity. Bring back theater, music and art. Let kids do plays and paint murals.
- Abolish grades, standardized tests and homework
- Get rid of coercive, behaviorist methods of discipline
- Let kids move. Bring back recess and PE
- Provide healthy meals. Let kids plant gardens and pay attention to where their food comes from.
- Encourage critical thinking and questions that can’t be answered in a worksheet.
- Support the caregiver’s right to choose a model that fits his or her own child
- Adequately fund education so that teachers are paid a living wage
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John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, AZ who blogs at Education Rethink. He recently finished Pencil Me In, an allegory for educational technology and A Sustainable Start, a book for new teachers. He also wrote the reform-minded memoirs Teaching Unmasked: A Humble Alternative to Waiting For a Superhero and Sages and Lunatics. He has written two young adult novels Drawn Into Danger and A Wall for Zombies. You can connect with him on Twitter @johntspencer