If you’re a teacher, student or parent with children in American public schools then you probably have some first hand knowledge of the problems that have been caused by well-meaning but inflexible “No child left behind” policies and the new emphasis on “one-size-fits-all” common core standards. It’s not that all aspects of these initiatives are unwise, but certain parts definitely are.
Our idea is to encourage teachers, parents and students around the United States to write personal letters and mail them in May (not by e-mail) to Michelle Obama, telling her of your experiences and concerns with how high-stakes testing and other reforms are affecting those who actually spend their days on the front line, in our nation’s classrooms. As Nancy Carlsson-Paige described the current situation:
“As a professor of education, an educator of teachers, and someone who creates curriculum, I see the harm education reform is causing children — the disappearance of play, creativity, and the arts from our schools. Evaluation is now driving curriculum, and curriculum is being reduced to something mechanistic. This isn’t real learning.”
Educators like Dr. Carlsson-Page and Diane Ravitch have spoken out for years now, but for some reason their explanations have not been heard and understood by President Obama. He’s a very busy man, with a lot of issues on his plate. But he and Michelle are parents as well, with young daughters in school.
Which is why we thought an effective strategy might be for people from all over the Nation to write to Michelle Obama and let her know what is REALLY going on. As someone who spends time visiting schools, she should be able to quickly grasp these issues once she sits down, reads a few letters and really learns about the effect these policies have had.
Moreover, as First Lady she may be in the best position to help influence education policy. Once she “gets it” she can then explain the “uncomfortable” details of the issue to the President. One or two meaningful conversations between the two of them in the White House could lead to some big changes.
So, if you agree with this idea, we hope you will consider sharing your personal story with her. Let Michelle (and her staff) know what you’ve observed, as a parent, educator or student. Also, as parents and teachers, we can discuss this issue with our children and encourage them to write as well, expressing their unique point of view.
Isn’t this what “critical thinking skills” and participatory democracy are all about – finding a way for our leaders to hear (and be guided by) the voices and wisdom of the people, all the people, even the children?
Thanks for considering this idea and sharing it with others.
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” ~Victor Hugo
Send your letter to:
Ms. Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— Christopher Chase is the co-admin of The Art of Learning’s facebook page. The Art of Learning believes “Human beings are natural born learners.” Chase worked with Hank Levin as a member of the Stanford Accelerated Schools Project, 1989-1993. Currently teaching English at Seinan Gakuin University, in Japan. Ph.D. in education from Stanford University, 1993.