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Monday, January 1, 2018

Walking through hard rains 2009-2018 Wouldn't have it any other way

2000-2018 My journey from academia to radical education activist.

Dedicated to, and inspired by Frederick Douglas 1857 “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” 

In 2000, I completed my Ph.D. in Language, Reading and Culture at the University of Arizona. My dissertation committee included research giants in literacy and language policy, Yetta Goodman, Ken Goodman and Kathy Short. Dorothy Menosky, original Miscue Researcher (and my masters degree advisor). Dana Fox, a leading voice in literacy education.  Finally, Richard Ruiz the seminal voice in language policy. My dissertation called for using culture as the invitation to literacy on the Tohono Oodham Reservation, in Pima County, Tucson.  It demonstrated the power of culturally relevant curriculum practices to increase high school graduation rates for Native American students.  I was empowered with the pedagogic knowledge, and truth to transform a curriculum that was deeply rooted in nearly 200 years of inequity.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. (F. Douglas, 1857)

My Struggle 2000-2009

My beliefs were na├»ve, that truth alone could bring equity and justice to our public schools. I knew this struggle was a moral one. How could the fight against inequity in our public schools be anything else? I would spend the next 9 years writing articles reviewing the research, presenting success stories at state, national and international education conferences. I became an advocate for holistic education, and culturally relevant curriculums. I set out to find teacher advocates with similar pedagogical understandings. I found many successes.  Educators were making a difference in poor communities using culturally relevant and holistic curriculums. I shared their stories with mine.  Sadly, I discovered truth alone would not bring equity and relevance to our public schools. For nine years, I didn’t realize that just like Frederick Douglas this struggle was both moral and physical.

The evidence for the most massive education reform failure in
American Public Education History 

I realized back in 2000 that America
s growing obsession with rigorous standards and new testing was nothing more than yet another form of trickle-down economics, a new myth of progress. It is no coincidence the driving force behind this love of testing came out of A Nation At Risk. These policy reforms demanded high-stakes testing and competition become the focus of education reform in our public schools.  Like many academics, I used Berliners Manufactured Crisis and policy papers from National Education Policy Centers research to point out consistent failures of testing, masking as education reform. Research clearly demonstrates high-stakes testing reforms do not lead to better test scores.  They lead to more children being identified as special education, along with increasing numbers of behavior problems at school. NCLB’s trickle-down economics, I knew back then, would eventually leave our public-school system with greater inequity and immense debt. The last straw for me was George Bushs selection of Secretary Page, and their push for No Child Left Behind legislation. This legislation cemented high-stakes testing and charter schools as the only road to equity for black, brown, poor and special education children in our nations public schools. One trillion dollars was spent, not on providing funding and equity for poor schools, but for new standards and testing. (Americas love affair with testing actually began way back in 1892 with the National Education Association Committee of Ten. A national call for new more rigorous standards and common assessments). NCLB, RTTT, and ESSA are not innovative and creative education reforms. They are a continuation of 126 years of education reform failures. The Committee of Ten worked to narrow down the curriculum to better connect high school and college education as the beginning of culturally and racially irrelevant education. A basic knowledge of American Public Education History informs us that testing and standards have never succeeded in bringing equity and justice to our public schools. These reforms are big sink holes, whatever is built upon them will eventually collapse.  Finally, we find ourselves even further from any sense of a just and equal public education.

You cannot go against the tide without risk.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. ~ Frederick Douglas

Back in2002, before it ever became law, I was speaking out against No Child Left Behind in Connecticut.  In 2003, I chaired a conference at Central Connecticut State University entitled
Children Are More Than Test Scores. This conference put my tenure at risk.  Unbeknownst to me a Republican Congressional member went to the president of our university to complain about the conference and the notion that NCLB would fail children.  Years later, V.P. Dr. Elene Demos would tell me “I saved your ass back then”.   In 2003 my position as a faculty member became secure but my work in professional development halted. Think about it, who hires the professor who calls high-stakes testing a sham to help improve their schools test scores? 2003 was my Douglas moment, this struggle is both moral and physical.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. ~ F. Douglas
My struggle continues
I continued speaking up and presenting resistance stories at conferences, and in 2008 came the single biggest proof of the failure of NCLB. The Bush Administration released the data on NCLB's six year, six-billion-dollar premier education reform effort with their "Reading First Schools." This was the most rigorous research study of any education reform policy in American Public Education history. It provided overwhelming evidence, six years of massive failure. Reading First Schools all demonstrated loss of comprehension. The only group to show growth in comprehension was the "Control Group" (the group in the experiment that did not receive the treatment used as a benchmark to measure the growth of treatment).  The results of the Reading Research Study were so bad we all expected someone to be fired, someone to take the fall. Our nations leaders, policy makers, and legislators carried on ~ business as usual.

When Barack Obama took office, Arne Duncan Secretary of Education, already had the failing data. We expected change, but S Duncan argued the focus on early literacy was wrong. He argued for the need of new standards, new tests, the need to shift for academic literacy reform in upper grades. In 2009 and 2010 two more impact studies were published, both showed the same failing data. All their recommended reforms demonstrated losses. Once again, the control groups out performed. Duncan not only continued the same failed policies. He put the idea of forcing poor schools to compete against each other for limited resources on the front burner. School choice would become his mantra. In 2017 our public schools have become more segregated and more inequitable. Choice without equity is an immoral choice. 

On December 29, 2009, I posted on my Facebook Wall the following

Martin Buber Austrian-born Jewish philosopher who advocates philosophy of dialogue said: The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda. In 2009, I found myself increasingly looking beyond the rhetoric of public medias presentation on issues in education. Welcome beautiful 2010 the year we start to look beyond the propaganda.

I came to understand that much of what is viewed as education reform in America is Racist, sexist, anti-immigrant Propaganda. Frederick Douglas said “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.”  Someone had to strike a physical blow for equity and justice in our public schools. David Berliner, Diane Ravitch, and a host of others were already striking powerful intellectual blows by time Duncan announced his Race To The Top Policy.
What could I do? I am no man of power. I hold no great influence with the wealthy, the powerful, and the connected. I do not dine with CEOs, Senators, Governors, Commissioners, or Presidents.

I began to re-read my favorites, Dr. Martin Luther King, Civil Rights history. I read again about the great walks, The Cherokee Nation, The Trail of Tears, Cesar Chavez’s 1966 walk from Delano to Sacramento. I reread Exodus, and how the Hebrew People walked into the desert with Moses. I started to understand the idea of walking as a radical action. The Cherokee had walked 1000 miles before the Trail of Tears ended. The Navajo people walked 300 miles. Dr. King walked 51 miles from Selma to Montgomery.  Some 75 Latino and Filipino grape workers walked 340 miles with Cesar Chavez.  No, I couldn’t change the world, but I could start walking for change tomorrow. Could it be that my walking feet might strike the first physical blow of this struggle to save our public schools?

In 2010, I walked from Connecticut to Washington, DC to protest testing in our public schools. I understood research and data did not matter to these education reformers. They were not driven by evidence. Ten years of NCLB and RTTT education reforms had nothing to do with improving education. Education Reform in America harmed black, brown, poor and special education children. But these reforms made billions of dollars for publishers of textbooks, tests, and on- line data tracking systems. NCLB had turned our children into test scores.  RTTT was about to place For Sale signs on the public schools in our poorest communities.  Silence and apathy are not acceptable. I came to accept the struggle for equity and justice in our public schools as a struggle for freedom.  So, while my walking began in 2010, it continues today. Walking is the inspiration for my writing, my teaching, and my activism. Along the way I became an SOSer, (Save Our Schools March) a BAT, (Badass Teacher) a UOO, (United Opt Out) a Moral Monday CT member, a Black Lives Matter member, and Journey 4 Justice supporter. Walking inspires my teaching, my activism, and my unionism.
These feet shall walk again

The struggle continues

In 2015, I walked again, that 400-mile trek from Connecticut to Washington DC to protest the newest education reform propaganda ESSA. In returning to Frederick Douglas 1857 “West Indian Emancipation” speech I take comfort in his words:

 In the great struggle now progressing for the freedom and elevation of our people, we should be found at work with all our might, resolved that no man or set of men shall be more abundant in labors, according to the measure of our ability, than ourselves.”

In America, there has to be equity and justice in our public schools. Let me go the well of hope.  Let me remember the dreamer who went to the mountain top.  Let his words help right the broken threads of our nation’s tapestry of freedom, justice, love, and hope.

“The other America,” “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ~ Dr. King, 1968.

So, Dylan sang It's "A Hard Rain Gonna Fall"
Like in 2018, just like 1776, 1857, and 1968,
I gonna walk in that hard rain,
I draw strength from the well of hope.
I will do what people of hope have always done.
I will work for justice inside and outside our public schools.
I shall not tire or waiver, for I know who I am.
I am one man walking,
One man walking for justice.
Not, worried about those hard rians,
Not, worried about how many miles it takes to get there.
Inspired by walking giants.
I do not need to win today,
I know justice will prevail.
If, not today, then tomorrow…
When it arrives,
I’m going to hang up these walking shoes.

Until then, I walk through their hard rains,
I a man in love this progress of our struggle.
Come join our radical rising.
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

 M. L. King, (1968). The Other America

F. Douglas, (1857). If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

NCEE 2008-4016. Reading First Impact Study: Interim Report, (2008 April)

If you want to listen to the song that this walking listen to on his morning walk's Dylan's "A Hard Rain Gonna Fall"
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Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well-hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

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