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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Call me one Badass Teacher fighting his way to DC this July 28, 2014

Today I am walking under a Jamaican sun, I have the honor and the pleasure of working with 19 Jamaican reading teachers here. They have arrived at the last course on their three-year journey to becoming Reading Specialists. They have crossed so many rivers to become Reading Specialists, gone into debt, made far too many sacrifices to come to this river. I have been their captain. One lost her toddler son just less than two months ago, and still grieving she came to cross this last river in honor of her son. 
I am in awe of my teachers. Jamaicans teachers are no different than American teachers they never stop learning, never stop sacrificing, and almost always on their own dime. It pains me to hear so many in power undermining and belittling their work.  
I said I was their Captain, but it's the crew who lifts the anchor, and sails the ship out and in of port. This by far is one of the best crews that any captain ever had. So for this blog I am drawing on one of Jamaica's Seven National Heroes. Marcus Garvey in their honor. For my Jamaican teachers have given me far more than I them.

Jonathan Kozal wrote about savage inequalities that define our public schools two decades ago. He called our leaders to equality, he called them to justice, to dignity, and to honor.

Bob Marley said: "How many rivers do we have to cross before we talk to the boss?"
Equality does not come through testing,
Equality does not come through reducing children to data points,
Equality does not come through demoralizing teachers,
Equality does not come through forcing schools to compete against each other on unleveled playing fields.

Equality will not come through Common Core Standards that fail to study our history:
Equality does not ignore the brutalization of our Native people,
Equality does not ignore the continuous noble struggle of a people dragged from Africa's shore in bondage rising from the evil shackles of slavery to freedom,
Equality does not ignore that the first cargo unloaded at James Town was 20 Black slaves,
Equality does not ignore the struggles of Black, Latin, Women, GLBT for Civil Rights,
Equality does not ignore the struggles of labor unions,
Equality does not ignore the history of those who sacrifice all to defend the freedom of all,
Equality does not ignore the immigrant journeys of all Americans, our journeys did not end at Plymouth,
Equality does not ignore the cries of the poor, 
Equality does not ignore the disastrous lessons of bubbles, speculators, and economic collapses.

Equality will not come with out a deep study of who we are, where we came from, and an thorough examination of the sacrifices of all Americans. 
Focusing on standards rooted in 3 Rs and testing while ignoring the sacrifices, the struggles, the joys and triumphant stories of we the American people,
These Ed Reform Standards are not standards, but an insult, and an attack on the American people.  
Marcus Garvey said “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
I see no roots in Common Core standards that claimed to be are all things to all people, but lack any real specificity about America's journey.  
Where is the spoken word in these standards? I am not referring to the conventions of English, but the voices of who we are, where we are going, our different points of view, and our deepest hopes? 
These standards appear to aim at silencing our young not at helping to raise their collective voices. Garvey also said: “The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is mightier than them both put together.” I see silence and apathy rooted in these standards not the lifting the voices of our young. Any wonder, why we talk about unmotivated students and prison to school pipelines.

Returning to Equity. As long as we give one school more than another, and expect the same results. 
First, I acknowledge we were rooted in inequality before NCLB, but have made unfair competition and inequity the core of our NCLB/RTTT Education Reforms.
Second, any national standards not rooted in equity are not standards, but shackles upon the dreams and hopes of our children.
Thirdly, I know evil when I see it,
Finally, I know a righteous fight when I am in it,
Call me one Badass Teacher fighting his way to DC this July 28, 2014,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you want to know what the Walking Man was listening to on his walk, it was Bob Marley's Stand up..Get Up... and James Weldon Johnson's Lift Every Voice