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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who will teach our children? What I learned in Selma!

The lesson from Selma Alabama keep on marching


I want to comment on Valerie Strauss's article in last week’s Washington Post: Teacher job satisfaction plummets — Survey By Valerie Strauss. Kevin G. Welner, Strauss’s guest blogger writes: " It’s not fun to be repeatedly punched in the gut. And we can now quantify how not-fun it is, at least when teachers are the punches.  Over the past two years of gut-punching, teacher job satisfaction has fallen from 59 percent to 44 percent."   
Yes teachers can quantify it, teachers can feel it, and teachers are under vicious attack from both the right and left.
The emerging problem: Who will teach our children if job satisfaction for teachers keeps plummeting?  Reflecting on that question I posted the above article on our Children Are More Than test Scores Facebook page with this caption: "Perhaps in the future our children will be taught by robots, machines with out feelings, without emotions, and who view all children as data to be crunch. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's policies inspire no one, but testing company CEOs. The DC DOE has failed from the very beginning of NCLB to understand rather than testing children they needed to find ways to inspire them.  To win their minds you need to win their hearts. They just don't get it."
Word from the street: Members responded quickly to this one. However one response from a teacher I highly respect, a teacher who has been fighting the good fight since her first day in the classroom stuck out among the others:  "No, they used "force" Jesse did I ever tell you about the regional meeting I went to out here in Southern CA a Principal sent me-she sent me because she wanted me to see, I think, what the machine looked like. A Fed ran it. It had to do with underperforming schools-back 7 years ago. In this he talked about forcing teachers to do these things. Using profanity, talking about shoving down our throats-whatever is necessary. Most unethical thing I ever saw." 
The truth: This teacher is right NCLB/RTTT is top down driven policy FORCE down our throats. The Feds have bullied children, parents, teachers, and public schools at every level. We have been isolated, marginalized, and threatened by the DOE in DC for over a decade at this point. Secretary Arne Duncan likes to say he respects teachers. If his reform policies are his way of supporting and respecting teachers than he must believe the Moon is made of cream cheese.  
A fact: the DC DOE has spent nearly a trillion dollars on experimental education reform models that have shown little or no effect on closing the achievement gap.  In 2001 the DOE said we needed new rigorous standards and new tests. All 50 states developed new standards and tests, and they failed to close the achievement gap. Now the DOE is saying once again we need new standards and testing Part 2. Of course if states want access to the very tax dollars they send to Washington they better shut up, and follow along. 
America's parents, teachers, and schools have a choice. We can go along to get along, or we can resist. We can learn about resisting from the Civil Rights Movement.
A little history: I view NCLB/RTTT policies as the new Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws were created to keep African Americans from voting, and living freely in the south. Jim Crow created two sets of laws one for whites, and another for blacks. Under the law Whites would have all the powers granted them under the constitution, and African Americans would be denied those very same rights. In particular the right to vote would be kept from African Americans. Thus the voice of African Americans would not be heard in state capitals. Opposition to Jim Crow is a long bloody brutal history of oppression against Black Americans. Our nation has a rich history of resistance to Jim Crow. My 400 mile-walk from Connecticut to DC to protest excessive high stakes testing in 2010 was inspired by the Civil Rights movement’s response to Jim Crow.   
Sometimes you go to the source: Last week I went to Selma Alabama for the Sunday Bloody Sunday Jubilee. I went to Selma cognizant that the Edmund Pettus Bridge is sacred ground in the Civil Rights Movement. I went to the place where I could draw strength, the place where I could draw inspiration. The sacred place where I could learn how to fight back against unjust policies. I went to place where I could learn from the elders. 
Those elders who marched on that bridge in 1965,
Those elders met by Governor George Wallace’s State Troopers,
Those elders who were gassed,
Those elders who were beaten,
Those elders who lost love ones,
Those elders who were brutally beat, but could not be beaten,
Those elders who carry sacred lessons,
Those elders taught us
Force won't turn you around,
Shame won't turn you around,
Lies won't turn you around.
You have a date with justice, you have a date with righteousness, and until that date comes keep on moving, keep on talking, and keep on marching.
Something deep in my soul tells me a change is gonna come.
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you want to know what the walking man is listening to today on his walk it's Leela James "A change is gonna come"


  1. Jesse, You are an treasure! You inspire all of us to take whatever steps we can take to right the wrong and defend public education and America's children. Keep at it!

  2. Thank you Lynn and Richard for reminding me I am not just talking to the wall.
    Harry Turman said "I always remember an epitaph which is in the cemetery at Tombstone, Arizona. It says: 'Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.' I think that is the greatest epitaph a man can have - When he gives everything that is in him to do the job he has before him. That is all you can ask of him and that is what I have tried to do."
    Doing my damnedest for America's children, parents, and teachers,