You, me, Markos, and a couple thousand others, we’re all sitting in a great hall at Netroots Nation as President Obama greets us with his perfect voice. We sit mesmerized by his presence because we know that within the next few minutes, with mere words alone, he will knock our socks off. He will inspire us and lead us all to a better place.
Suddenly, he abruptly alters course. He says (in my dream):
But, before I talk about how we are going to end the wars, achieve universal health care, grow the economy by creating millions of new green jobs, tax those who can best afford it, and hold Wall Street accountable for all the harm they have done and are doing to working people, before we do all that, I want take a minute to talk to annie em (that’s me). I know she’s been worried about the present course of “”education reform “” and how it threatens our democracy. We don’t talk about education enough, so I want to take a moment to talk with her about that first. (Can’t you just hear his voice saying those words?)
Abruptly, we are transported to the President’s White House living quarters. President Obama and I are sitting adjacent to one another in comfortable chairs. Michelle and the girls are at a nearby table browsing through catalogs of playground equipment, oohing and aahing over playgrounds that schools could purchase to help combat childhood obesity if they only had the money.
“”All of this testing has to end, I say, My friends in Florida say the are required to pretest and post test every single concept they teach — even in first grade — Do they know the “”b””, “”buh”” sound? Pretest, teach, test again. (True.) It’s ridiculous. Not to mention the mightier than the universe focus on standardized tests.””
The President responds in a hushed tone with words that sound vaguely familiar (WP Answer Sheet):
We have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.
“”I couldn’t agree with you more, I say smiling, as I hear Sasha and Malia giggling in corner, That’s just the way it was when I was in school. Professor Stephen Krashen has some great ideas about testing, maybe you could listen to him.””
“”You know, I say, The Billionaire Boys are having a heyday busting up unions, closing down schools, influencing policy, and creating all kinds of havoc in our public schools, yet they know nothing about education and how kids learn. You must listen to educators. You wouldn’t send for your hairdresser to fix your plumbing, would you? So, stop acquiescing to Wall Street players in matters they know nothing about.””
President Obama (in my dream):
I’m beginning to see that our attempts at education reform aren’t working. What seemed like a good idea in the beginning — the competition of Race to the Top, merit pay, high-stakes tests — just isn’t working out for so many of our children. What do you suggest we do?
“”The same thing happened to Diane Ravitch, I say. She did a lot of damage to education before she saw the light. So, she wrote a book and is now she crisscrossing the country to educate people about the fraudulent intent of wealthy education reformers who are out to privatize our public schools at the expense of children and teachers. You can “”do a Diane.”” This is what intelligent people do. When they examine the facts and see that they have mistakenly miscalculated a situation, they take a new direction. You can encourage other Democrats to do it, too. And, even Republicans.
The most important thing you can do is listen to educators and parents. They are the ones who know what children need and how they learn. Stop the government persecution of teachers, and let them teach. We are the only profession that never truly gets to do our job. We always have someone who knows nothing about education telling us what to do.
Stop giving away education funding to organizations that contribute nothing to education and actually do harm to children. I’m talking about Teach for America and the KIPP foundation in particular. Wendy Kopp and her husband, Richard Barth, neither of whom have an education credential between them were given $100 million of our tax money, not one cent of which will find its way to the classroom in the form of equipment, supplies, programs, or curriculum that will benefit children.
And finally, recognize that children in poverty cannot learn when they are hungry, homeless, or worried about how the family is going to stay together. I turn and say to Michelle, “”Can we have fresh, nutritious food and a great playground for every school?”” She answers, “”Yes.”” Then, I turn back to President Obama and say, “”I guess now would be a good time to talk about those millions of new jobs.””
I invite them to the Save Our Schools March in July, and then I wake up to the nightmare that is today’s “”education reform.””
I realize it is just a pretty dream, but, it’s the world I’d like to live in. What would your dreamy conversation with President Obama be?