Search This Blog

Monday, June 1, 2015

High-stakes testing the new Gulag

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 wrote “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

There is no doubt in my mind that education reform policies of NCLB, RTTT and Common Core testing are a sort of new Gulag for our children, our teachers, and our local schools. The only difference is there is no need to send you to Siberia today. The oppression of our children begins right in their local communities. High-stakes testing is feeding that New Jim Crow that Michelle Alexander writes about: " "For me, the new caste system is now as obvious as my own face in the mirror. Like an optical illusion—one in which the embedded image is impossible to see until its outline is identified—the new caste system lurks invisibly within the maze of rationalizations we have developed for persistent racial inequality" (2012). 
Some will say I am going to far, that these policies all had good intentions. Others might call my thinking radical pedagogy, and some others would label me a tool of the left.
Let me make this clear:
I am a registered independent,
I belong to no party,
I vote my conscience,
I am to the right and I am to the left on things,
I am a deeply religious man, a church going man, but faith is driven by my belief in God not by my religious affiliation.   
I am a loving brother, a loving husband, and father.
I don't fit Fox's, MNBC, or CNN's political boxes.
I am simply a morally driven man.
I am a man that believes the enemies of democracy are apathy and silence.
Dr. King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham jail: " “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Is it wrong to chase Dr. King's what "ought to be"?
Is it extreme to follow Dr. King's the four steps of a nonviolent campaign for justice?
Step: 1. collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist, (I started doing this in 2002); Step: 2 negotiation; (since 2003 I attempted negotiation with policy makers, legislators, and my professional organizations;
Step: 3 self-purification, (Since 2010 I have used walking and prayer to clear my mind and my soul;  Step: 4 direct action, I have use direct action to protest injustice since I was a young boy.  The first march I ever attended was when I was 8 years-old in 1963. I was my grandfather's company for the ride down from Jersey to DC for the March On Washington where Dr. King gave America the dream. I love marching for righteous causes, it sure beats sitting home saying how sad. I walked and marched, chanted, and carried many signs over the years. It never gets sour, it's always sweet, and it's beside it's a family tradition.

This is Erin my daughter who marched with her dad and the New Britain NAACP's No Justice, no peace march last February. I rather stand alone in the rain for a hundred years against what is being done to our children, their teachers, and our local schools than stay dry and warm at home in silence. This cause feels as righteous to me as that first 1963 March on Washington.
Finally I am calling these education reform policies the New Gulag Extreme.
I say:
13 years painful testing is extreme,
Forcing our poorest schools to compete against each other for their survival, closing our poorest schools in our most needy communities in record numbers is extreme,
Denying high school students in 19 states the right to high schools diplomas based on non-validated standardized tests is extreme,
Allocating 1.2 Trillion dollars for education reforms that have failed to address the fact that 49 states spend more money on their wealthy schools than their poor schools is extreme.
Is it extreme to be inspired by words of a dreamer written from his jail cell?
Dr. Kind wrote: "But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice? -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist? -- "Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist? -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? -- "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?"
Silence and apathy are not acceptable in the face of unjust policy no matter how good their intentions were in the beginning.
Call me an extremist for love, for equity in our public schools, for children, for teachers, and our public schools.
Walking to DC,
If you want to know what I am listening to on my walk this evening it's Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes "I'm a man on Fire"

No comments:

Post a Comment