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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 


  1. The Steinbeck quotes were perfect.

    Jesse, when you put all those name and groups together that are working to make change, it is encouraging.

  2. I can add the name of Horace Mann as well. Horace in 2002 I was alone, in 2004 I was marginalized, in 2007 I was shunned, and in 2008 I step it up, and in 2010 I started walking. I haven't looked back since. We are winning, the tide is turning, and I still have plenty of fight left in me.

  3. George SheridanMay 2, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Teacher unions get far too little credit on the left for the huge effort we have made to save public education. One example among hundreds: In Sacramento, California, teachers are working with allies - including other unions - to replace all the members of the pro-charter county school board.

    Teacher unions have been a major target of the corporations and politicians who want to privatize education. We are under attack on many fronts simultaneously, including but not limited to school funding, teacher evaluation, and our first amendment rights to free speech and association. Standardized tests are weapons that function on multiple levels against teachers and schools and communities.

    When we speak for students and the community, we are regularly accused of acting only out of self interest. But I can attest that many thousands of teacher unionists are working daily to save public education. Our tactics include Initiatives, legislation, candidate elections and recalls. They include rallies and speeches at school board meetings.

  4. es, they are George, and they helped with the Save Our Schools March in DC last summer, and the AFT is offering to help with the Save Our Schools People's Education Convention this summer as well. This is a battle that we will win together

  5. Jesse, you know I will be walking beside you wherever this journey takes us.

  6. Rebel, all roads are leading to the People's Education Convention in DC this August 3-5.

  7. I have been vilified in a state wide ad campaign which pushed for voucher funding here in PA. I was compared to George Wallace for saying I would stand in the school house door to SAVE our kids from the de-form and re-segregation of schools. I am still standing up and still raising my voice. Was in DC in July last and will return in August this year. In the meantime, still fighting the "jim Crow" education scheme in PA and am doing so as a parent, a community member and a school board official. I am trying to get our 10th graders to sign on to boycott the PSSA test in 11th Grade. I am calling it the Rosa Parks protest. It isn't the "bus drivers" or "bus owners" who will rise up to stop the maddness of "Education, Inc."; its the "passengers" - our students! Keep up the fight, keep putting one foot in front of the other! You are one of my heros! Charlotte Hummel

    1. And you Charlotte one of my heroes.

  8. And more than 6500 parents and educators have signed the letter to Obama calling for an end to high-stakes testing, redesign of policy making at USDOE to include parents and educators, and as an added bonus, the dismissal of Arne Duncan.

  9. Bob, you already have my signature. May I add we also need to not only change leadership at the US DOE, but define the leadership we need. We need you to come to DC Bob, and help us define that with all the other diverse thinkers.

  10. I find Save Our Schools to be a HUGE disappointment. There was a great opportunity for organizing last summer, but the person controlling the website made some stupid and elitist decisions. There was very little helpful communication with the state people and way too many talky internet meetings. Sorry, but you folks dropped the ball in a major way -- so much so that one has to wonder if it was intentional...(As with the website, I expect to be censored--another problem with SOS, no criticism allowed!)

  11. Salutations Jenny you certainly are not being censored here. Your criticisms are fair. It is hard to run a websites without any paid employees. It is hard to run anything without any paid employees. People are trying to do better this year, and hoping to do a better job handling the ball. I am doing all I can to help them.
    As for being, a disappointment wasn’t that what Diane Ravitch's letter to Deborah was all about? “The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?”
    My answer is it is growing, not yet cohesive, but it is fighting back, and it is fighting back every single day. It is an exhausting fight that offers very little rest to anyone involved. The leadership is out there, and has common ground, but has not found a way to stand on that ground together. That is the real disappointment I believe Diane was writing about. Something I happened to agree with. People are working on, and people are fighting as hard as they can in many organizations around the country. It is enough not enough for some to fight back; we need more people to join this fight. No one has to join any particular group, but it helps to join the fight against people putting for sale signs on our public schools. Here we sing to the choir of people fighting back.
    Deborah’s response ended with: “How to balance competing, but legitimate, agendas on the part of individual families, communities, and the common good? It may not be immediately relevant, but I think we need to put our current "crisis"—and, for a change, it is a real one—into a larger picture of possibilities unexplored.
    The leadership question for me is how do we sing to that greater national choir. I do not have the answer to that Jenny. All I really know is that silence and apathy are not acceptable. They are the silver bullets that can bring down any movement, any democracy. I have been dodging those silver bullets now for 30 year. I am not fancy, and I am not smooth, but I am trying. I am trying as you are. I count all of those who rise about apathy, and speak up as gifts, and you Jenny are a gift.

  12. Jesse, this blog was sent to me by a friend/teacher colleague. It is very refreshing to view progressive and common sense dialogue pertaining to education. I'm one of many teachers,parents, community leaders, and activists that are planning on replacing our sell-out union leaders with a more progressive leadership, that will be willing to defend public education. There are too many tests being forced upon our students. Teachers don't have much time to facilitate lessons that will secure student's knowledge of required and necessary information. Its even further insulting to tie a student's test score to teacher's salaries. The myriad of testing is just a money making scheme. We are planning an 'Occupy Detroit Public Schools' demonstration soon and would appreciate some advice.
    teacher, parent and activist