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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. ><

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I see leadership everywhere

That's the Walking Man on his walk to DC in 2010 crossing the Betsy Ross Bridge from Jersey to PA

In Valerie Strauss's article "The Answer Sheet" in the Washington Post,  she highlights the Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier blog where they exchange letters about their thoughts on education. It is one of the best blogs on education anywhere, and a real treat to read. ><
In a letter Diane wrote to Deborah about the lobbying group ALEC's harmful influence on school reform she  ends with the question "where is the leadership that is opposing the privatization of America's public schools?" Below is my reply:

Dear Diane, as you know the leadership certainly won't be found in the offices of our elected officials, or on the mayoral controlled boards of education in any of our major cities. It won't be found among the politically appointed policy makers singing that mantra of "testing and standards will fix everything". It won’t be seen on CNN, MNBC, or Fox, who are all mezmorized by the spin doctors of ALEC, and their clients who pay their bills.   

No indeed, for the leadership that is opposing the privatization of our schools, you will need to look into the trenches of America’s local public schools.
On the social network blogs of parents, teachers, and activists online.
You find them Occupying and S
ay No to The Test with Opt Out.
10,000 of them were to be found marching in DC with SOS last July, and this August are planning a People's Education Convention in DC.
They are all over Facebook:
Teachers’ letters to Obama,
Children Are More Than Test Scores,
Testing is not Teaching,
Schools of Professional Conscience,
Save Our Schools ~ The Movement,
Parents Across America: Put The Parent Voice Back in Public Education
Save our Schools March, and Call To Action Causes,
wow ~ there are just too many to list here. 

You can find leadership:
Passing the anti Charter school resolutions at NAACP,
Mary Broderick the National Schools Board President writing a public letter to President Obama saying RTTT policies demonize teachers, and demoralize children,
At the National Council of the Churches of Christ (USA) Publishing An Alternative Vision for Public Education A Pastoral Letter on Federal Policy in Public Education: An Ecumenical Call for Justice.

Or the more than 1,400 New York State principals that signed a petition asking state education officials to rethink their reform agenda.
Like you I see it online at's campaign to tell corporations to stop funding ALEC.
I see it in the blog and books of Dr. Yong Zhao, Jonathan Kozol, Alfie Kohn, Stephen Krashen, Nancy Carlsson Paige, Deborah Meier, and you Dr. Ravitch.
I read leadership in their written words, and I am hearing it everywhere they speak. 

I see it in the faces of the students, parents, and teachers fighting school closings all across our nation.

Leadership in the 21st century doesn't wear Armani suits, or make deals in the back rooms of our nation's DOEs, or city halls. New leadership is emerging in the nooks and crannies of democracy all across America, and it is growing every day, and it can’t be stopped. 
It’s the stuff that John Steinbeck wrote about in The Grapes of Wrath. When Jim Load says: “Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. 
Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there . . . . 
I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-
I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. 
An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there.”
Dearest Diane and Deborah the leadership is here, it's in you, it's in me, and every American who rejects the notion that the most important thing they did in school was take a standardized test. 
Let's tell it on every mountain top.  We can’t be silenced, and we can't be stopped. 
We are everywhere there is a child, parent, or teacher yelling they’re mad at a system that thinks the most important about a child is a test score. 
You want leadership, come to Save Our School People's Education Convention August 3-5 in Washington DC.  SOS is calling for a gathering of leaders from all corners of our democracy opposing this madness. 
To those who want to place a "For Sale" sign on our public schools. 
Tell the world we are planning to sign a declaration of independence from their testing madness, their top down management, their scheme to privatize our public schools, and we plan to take that declaration to every governor, every DOE, both political party conventions, and to every school board in the land. Let America know we are all walking to Save Our School in 2012!
Jesse Turner
The Save Our Schools March National Steering Committee