SOS March 2011 in DC
FairTest and author of this excellent piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in the wake of Atlanta's cheating scandal) spoke. Phoebe Ferguson and Karran Harper Royal spoke together. Jose Vilson prepared what I thought was an excellent poem on testing. Nathan Saunders (president of the Washington Teachers Union) welcomed participants to DC, but he did not tell everyone he's in the midst of a serious leadership crisis at the WTU. Jonathan Kozol gave a similar speech to the one he gave on the first day of the conference. Diane Ravitch said education should not be made into a race, where only one or two people win. John Stewart provided some comic relief from the set of the Daily Show (he wasn't able to make it because, he claimed, a dog ate his car). Matt Damon related a story from his childhood. Apparently Damon's mother refused to let teachers administer standardized tests to him because, she said, they were stupid, wouldn't tell them anything, and would only make him nervous (read Damon's full speech here).
After Matt Damon spoke and the march was ready to move on, the SOS planners anticipated that there would be enough time as people left the Ellipse and began traveling toward the White House for some people to read a few more words from teachers around the country. However, participants moved off the Ellipse very quickly and there didn't seem to be a need to fill time. I had been given two teachers' letters to read. Instead of reading them at the march, I thought it would be just as appropriate to share them here.
The first letter comes from David Cohen, a national board certified teacher from California who blogs at InterACT (one of my favorite education blogs). David says:
"I am proud to be part of a profession of hard-working, dedicated people who are committed to changing the world for the better. Just by choosing this profession, we have expressed optimism for the future. We believe in change. We cling to hope. We are ready to be partners in reform. Are you willing to send us the help we ask for, instead of politically favored so-called reforms that really don't help us teach?"
Another letter from Jolie Lindley of Henryville Junior/Senior High School in Henryville, IN reads:
|WTU President Nathan Saunders with fellow SOS March attendee|
|It's Mike Klonsky|
They say cut backs; we say fight back!
Whose schools? Our schools! Whose children? Our children!
Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!
Marchers were loud, had enough people to look formidable, and had some great signs. The only strange part came as we walked through another protest over Syria. For a moment, schools, Damascus, teachers, Bashar al-Assad, and corporate reform blended together in something of a weird aural mishmash.
Although there were a few more events scheduled after the march, participants all but disappeared after the march was over. Anthony Cody estimated about 5,000 people turned up and hoped for 50,000 next year. Education Week suggested the turnout was closer to 3,000.
claimed the march was secretly funded by unions. (Hmmm - a lot of people were wearing shirts that said, "Union Thug.") This claim, were so many people not deluded into thinking unions are tantamount to pure evil, would/should not be so insidious. That people involved in teachers unions would also resist corporate reform shouldn't exactly catch anyone by surprise. Their presence certainly cannot be taken as evidence that unions funded the march under the guise of a grassroots movement. And even if they did, I'm not sure anyone should really care. Unions should be doing more to resist corporate reform.
Word on the street suggested that people would be gathering around DC this evening to continue the conversations they'd been having all week. Exhausted from travel and a little educationed out, I hung out with a few friends not involved in education and prepared for my flight out of DC tomorrow.
Tomorrow, SOS March participants will meet back at American University to continue to discuss strategies for moving our voice forward. I have to catch a flight and will not be able to attend.