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Friday, May 11, 2012

Calling all angels

What is the problem with school reform policy Walking Man?
            Politicians, policy makers, private sector entities have come to view the resistance of parents, teachers, educators, advocates and activists for public schools to their proposals as defenders of the status quo. What they deny is that it is they themselves who, through their plans and legislative actions over the past quarter century, have become the chief perpetrators of the status quo. Legislation such as No Child Left Behind and policies such as Race to the Top, and aspects of state legislation across the nation being enacted presently may be similarly indicted: they do not work. In reality, they constitute a major obstacle to school improvement.
Walking Man what makes this the major obstacle to school improvement?
 The economist Noreena Hertz, in her 2011 Ted Talk indicates that relying too much on experts can be limiting and even dangerous. She calls for us to start democratizing expertise to listen not only to "surgeons and CEOs, but also to shop staff" (2011). My thinking is, she is on to something here with the democratic process. Her Ted Talk goes on to suggest that when experts enter the conversation, people become quiet. The democratic process actually becomes stymied. Potential problems and pitfalls are never discussed. The experts give us the answers; and all our problems are solved. If only life were that simple. Those necessary insightful questions that help inform expert thinking need to come from the very people who are most effected by those expert opinions that shape their policies.  In current education reform leadership circles, children, parents, teachers, educators, and diverse communities find their voices are not being valued. Good doctors talk with their patients ~ not at them. Let’s all make something perfectly clear here, our politicians, policy makers, government bureaucrats, and so called private sectors partners, need to listen carefully, and value the voices of children, parents, teachers, advocates, activists, local schools, and diverse voices. I'd like to make clear a fact about the current crop of educational leadership in DC, and state capitals, regarding their claim to expertise. A great number of the dominant voices currently shaping our education reform policy have little, and sometimes no experience whatsoever, of having actually worked in classrooms.  Am I wrong to expect that these so called experts have  spent many years in the field, that they now claim to be leading?  It is unimaginable to think that politicians would ever impose a leadership on the United State Marine Corps that has never served in the Marines, or any other branch of the Armed Services. Our military would not accept that type of pretense leadership. Now we must ask ourselves, why is it that educators should ever accept this kind of pretense leadership?  We now have a Secretary of Education who has never worked in a public school classroom.  Our Governor here in Connecticut, just this year, appointed a lawyer who had previously served on a charter school board, with no classroom experience, as our Commissioner of Education.  He is the highest ranking education official in the state of Connecticut.  These appointments mark our nation’s educational leadership, and expertise, as suspicious ~ to say the very least.
Our public schools are not their labs, where they can experiment with a Celebrity Apprentice approach to leadership.  Such inexperience leads to these mandated policies on our nation’s public schools.  Such leadership does not have the confidence to handle constructive criticisms from the field that they themselves have little experience with.   Many of these leaders make the choice not to ever send their own children to the very public schools that they are now leading.  My mother would always say "you don't dine where the chef doesn't eat his own cooking." We should be very cautious of such leadership.
So Walking Man, why aren’t the experts listening?
The simple truth is, that children, parents, teachers, educators, and diverse voices do not have a seat at the Policy Making Table. Education Reform is now the preserve of lobbyists, sometimes dressed up as corporate leaders and representatives of interested foundations.  Teachers, children and parents are voiceless in current education reforms circles. They are little more than photo opps, or groups to be ignored at best. They lack the resources to respond to educational abuses being perpetrated; their role is merely to be held responsible for them. They do not have access to the airwaves, as do the politicians, or the access to those powerful entities whose electoral interests are placed over the public interest.

What can we do Walking Man?
We find ourselves frustrated by politicians, policy makers and these private sector entities, that have marginalized and silenced any opposition to their plans. We are groups of resisters, students, parents, teachers, activists, and educators in higher education that are banning together, taking action in the democratic ways, and fighting to be heard and respected in shaping policy in education. Our aim is to end what Kevin Welner has referred to as, the dead-end educational policies by which our government has become consumed. SOS aims to gather parents, classroom teachers, school administrators, school board leaders, civil right advocates, and yes students to turn the spotlight on a select range of possibilities that exist for the improvement of schooling. We have grown tired of the private entities and their Celebrity Apprentice Approach to education reform. Our perspectives are based in large part upon research that has been developed over the past quarter century, and a sincere inclusive listening process that values all voices. As Marcus Garvey that great Pam Africanist said: "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery". We can resist, we can gather, we can take back our schools, and we can emancipate our children from the mental slavery of meaningless testing.  
Why is SOS holding a People’s Education Convention Walking Man?
First let me remind you that SOS leader, like every other resistance group opposing NCLB/RTTT has never stopped marching. Like so many others, we are immersed in serious local resistance struggles. Struggles against state policies that are bent on destroying our system of public education.  Many have come to believe this is a struggle to preserve our very democracy. This is a fight for students to be unique, to be different, to hold on to their individualities, and most of all to allow our children to hold on to their childhood.  No speaker at last year’s conference/rally  has even rested for one minute. Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ravitch, Nancy Carlssom-Paige, Angela Valenzuela, John Kuhn, Deborah Meier, Pedro Noguera, Jose Vilson, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Rita Solnet, everyone of them continue the  fight each and every day against this insane policies that reduce our children and their teachers to test scores. Neither has any SOS march organizer rested since last year’s event. They continue to be relentless fighters in this struggle to take back our schools. We are in a thousand places fighting a thousand battles ~ every single day.   Mainstream media lacks the ability to piece the vastness and the diversity of our resistance into their world of 30-second sound bites.
We need the People's Education Convention to bring the mighty voices of resistance together in one place. A gathering in one place to present a united front of one vision with many voices. 
A vision that rejects the naive and flawed notion 
  • that the best measure of our children, or their teachers is a test score. 
  • that forces schools to compete for resources as the path to equity. 
  • that more testing, and new standards will save us, or solve the issues of hunger, lack of health care, inequality, or poverty.  

Many voices not becoming one, but sharing their individual truths, and fighting together against those who are currently placing For Sale signs on our public schools. Many voices on a mission that seeks to rewrite the current narrative of education reform, as it silences, marginalizes, and disrespects the voices of the American People.   If I had my way, I would call it a Gathering of Angels August 3-5, Washington, DC.  I am calling "all angels"  to come join us in DC this August,  outside the White House,  as we present our call for New Education Reform, a narrative that respects children, parents, teachers, educators, local schools, and diverse communities. 
SOSers have known no rest. I have personally marched, protested, testified, occupied the US Department Of Education, and collaborated with many others in my state, to resist this madness driving the most disrespectful education reform in our nation's history.  I’ll be speaking at Occupy New Haven in CT this Sunday.  Every SOSer is fighting locally, and working to bring this fight right to our nation’s capital. Make no mistake, everything that is happening to us locally is rooted in a decade of the failed federal polices of the current and two former Secretaries of Education. There is no rest in this struggle against NCLB/RTTT, and these so called reformers that place "For Sale" signs on our public schools.  
Will you be there Walking Man?
You will find the Walking Man at the People’s Education Convention in our nation’s capital this August 3-5. And then on August 6, I’ll wake up and continue fighting.  I’ll keep fighting this madness that reduces our children to test scores until the "People" have a real say in the policies that shape Public Education in America.
Still marching,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner
 If you are wondering what the Walking Man is listening while walking today it is U2's If God will send his angels. ><


  1. Tell it on the mountain top Walking Man. Something tells me you were a brother in another life time.

    1. Dr. Sherick HughesMay 11, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      ...Indeed, you said it Jesse. I'm with you brother, I'm with you.

      In Solidarity,

      Dr. Sherick Hughes

    2. I had this deep, lengthy reply all in mind, Walking Man. Then I read the comment above, chuckled and smiled, and either forgot what I was going to say, or realized there wasn't much more to say.

    3. Just saw Diane Ravitch's lecture at event sponsored by The Education Law Center in New Brunswick, NJ. They also gave her an award. She continues, as so many of us do, in the battle to protect public schools. Walking Man, superb blog on SOS, activism and the convention. Include ed retirees in your list of people pushing back as I am. And, BTW, an additional reason why parents are powerless is that most of the media hides and distorts the truth behind the corporate takeover of schools.

      "Most everybody's got seed to sow
      It ain't always easy for a weed to grow, oh no

      Walk on walking man
      Well now, would he (we) have wings to fly
      Would he (we) be free
      Golden wings against the sky
      Walking man, walk on by."


    4. Thank you Terry for the update, the poem, and the great vibes.