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Monday, November 21, 2016

Before the Common Core and 1968 Chicano Student Walk Outs

Remembering the 1968 Chicano student walkout. Thinking about students who fought to learn about social justice. Those were the days my friend.
Imagine yourself a fly on the wall? 
In a discussion with a Hispanic high-school student I worked with when his teacher was sick last week. 
I asked what are you learning about?
" You know Stuff"

What kind of stuff?

"I don't really know..
It's just stuff Dr. Turner"

Are you learning about history?
What books are you reading?
Tell about something interesting your learning in school?

"I don't know what I'm learning about...
Honestly it boring...
We aren't really reading about anything.."

You have to be reading about something.
Show me what you are reading?
Show me what books you have in your back pack?
There has to be something in your backpack?
Tell me about your history class?
Tell me about your English class?

"No, I don't have a History class.
I don't have an English class..
"We don't have any books..
We go to a website"

Can you show it to me on the computer?
So we went to the site, and it was boring, and lacked any real focus in my humble opinion. Like pulling teeth I found out this was for a humanities project. The student had a humanities project, and needed to write about asocial justice. This is the kind of assignment that would be exciting to me. I was excited, and started trying to get him excited.  

" Dr. Turner it's not about social justice. I was kind of interested at first, but it's about the five paragraph essay. All we talk about is the introductory paragraph, first paragraph, second paragraph, third paragraph, and the concluding paragraph stuff.....I'm not really interested in writing..." Then he took me to the Five Paragraph Essay site the class uses. 

We brainstorm social justice issues that might be interest him. The social justice website was a site that was a search engine for finding trusted articles...It really provided no guidance or sample projects. It was of little help. I also understood his teacher did a great deal more with this assignment then he was sharing. Trust me they always do more. But, we are but a mere fly on the world of a 16-year-old boy here. Looking at the world of school through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy. Imagine is Ed Reformers, policy makers, and legislators could look at their reforms through the eyes of 16-year-olds? The social justice site was a search engine for peer reviewed articles on social justice.  Being 61 year-old I found it interesting at the very least. I asked if his class was reading any connected books or stories about social justice...

" No we just read articles and sample essays..."

I left worried about our conversation. I understood this should be an exciting assignment. I knew the real issue was purpose. The young man had no personal purpose in this assignment. He was just going through the motions. I worried until Sam Cook "Wonderful World" came on the radio. 

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book,
Don't know much about the French I took.
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be.

Don't know much about geography,
Don't know much trigonometry.
Don't know much about algebra,
Don't know what a slide rule is for.
But I do know that one and one is two,
And if this one could be with you,
What a wonderful world this would be.

Now, I don't claim to be an "A" student,
But I'm tryin' to be.
For maybe by being an "A" student, baby,
I can win your love for me."

Heraclitus said: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."  Yes, no one steps in the same river twice. But, I recognize this river. It's hard to be a teacher in this Common Core no textbook era where the purpose of school is to go to college. Not why, just go to college. We never read Alfred Lord Tennyson's Forward Rode the Light Brigade to go to college. We never embedded his "Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die" into our hearts to go to college. My teachers had something else in mind, and to be honest in my high school most of us weren't going to college. These days a great deal of high is not to reason, but to do and die. There are millions of young minds dying in public schools driven by high-stakes testing and standards without personal purpose. 

Purpose, inquiry, and personal investment is not required in state mandated reasoning. 
As for the river I stepped in myself one or twice as a teenager long ago, but I also had teachers/guides who somehow turned everything into a radical revolution of discovery. Not all my teachers were great guides, but those few who were made all the difference. 
I can't wait to talk with his teacher. We have some real possible learning hooks here. Personal purpose, inquiry, liberation, and revolution. The waters might be different, and I might not be the same man, but in many ways it's always about my generation...Not to throw us off track, but the "Who" knew this river as well It's aways about my generation people.
Crossing generation borders is the teacher conversation stuff that makes great teachers.  It's the genuine stuff teachers like to talk about. We don't need another Common Core PD workshop; we just need each other. I am going back armed with history of the 1968 Chicano student walkouts. If that doesn't work we'll keep going back until we find something that does. It's what teaching is all about. At least it was until curriculum became scripted, standards became benchmarks, and testing became everything. It's not her fault, but it is someones fault that a high school student had no history classes in middle school, and has no history class now. In my day, history mattered enough to be called history, and my high school history teacher use the 1968 Chicano student walk outs to inspired a walk in to learning for us. Can't wait to step back into that river. 
Here's to those teachers who make a difference,

Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you like to listen to the tune I listened to on my walk this cold snow flake morning...its Sam Cooke's "wonderful World"


  1. I have a 12 year old boy that is also lost. No text books for any class, but a 5-6 year old I-Pad that doesn't work very well. He comes home most days and looks me in the eye and tells me he hates school. Every Friday, he tells me how depressed he is that he has to go back on Monday that he can't even enjoy his weekend. His life is filled with the 5 paragraph essay in ELA, History, Digital Citizenship. He sits in a remedial reading class (he is in the GT program) because he doesn't play an instrument or sing in the chorus. He has no music, no art and he only gets PE for the 3rd & 4th quarter. He is so bored that he is becoming a behavior problem in ELA because of the scripted curriculum being delivered by a very young teacher which is nothing but test prep for PARCC (which I REFUSE for my children). I love teachers and think they are great people, but I really think that I could "unschool" my child and he would be better off than sitting in the cesspool of public education in Howard County, MD. I am so sad and mad right now and I don't know how other parents don't/won't/can't see what is going on in our public schools. It is very frustrating as a parent.

    1. It has been one of the most demoralizing times I can remember in our public schools. Children, parents and teachers are hurting everywhere I look these days. The truth is the research about the education reforms of the past decade and half being pushed were well documented to result in increasing special education identifications and increased behavior problems. They knew what would happen, and they went ahead anyway.
      It's time for all of us to start walking out.