Every Child Deserves a Great Education

Archive for August, 2011

Matt Damon, Reason TV, and the Koch Family Comments Off

Posted on August 22, 2011 by dmayer

Reflections on the Save Our Schools March

It’s just like me to be late in writing my thank yous, but I wanted to think about this for a little while to try to understand why more well-known people didn’t come out in support of teachers for the Save Our Schools March, and why well-funded, conservative, hate-mongers can always be counted on the show up and ruin the day. When Matt Damon agreed to speak at the SOS March in Washington, D.C., he probably didn’t expect to be attacked by the minions of the Koch family soon after, but that’s exactly what occurred. First, an introduction by Matt’s teacher mom and then Matt’s lovely speech of appreciation to teachers. THANK YOU MATT DAMON!

I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome. I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything. I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught. And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested. I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers. Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’ That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that. I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes. I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents. I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that. This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me. So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

Above are the words Matt Damon spoke to us. His genuinely kind words brought tears to the eyes of many teachers who hadn’t heard such expressions of gratitude for such a long time. My question is why wasn’t Matt joined by many more “well known” people on that stage to extol the value of public schools and of teachers? Besides Matt, Jon Stewart sent a message to us which was also greatly appreciated and even more so when we found out that he couldn’t be with us because he was in a war zone entertaining the troops in Afghanistan. THANK YOU JON STEWART! Before the day was over, Matt Damon stood his ground to defend teachers again and again. Reason TV troglodytes making ridiculous claims and asking idiotic questions: Matt Damon says. “Stop the war on teachers.” WHY WASN’T ANY MEDIA ORGANIZATION EXCEPT REASON TV THERE TO RECORD THE EVENT? Reason.tv is part of Reason Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) charitable research and educational foundation that also publishes Reason, the nation’s largest and most influential libertarian magazine. The Reason Foundation is funded, in part, by what are known as the “Koch Family Foundations”, and David Koch serves as a Reason trustee. Also, Reason.tv is supported in part by generous contributions from Ken and Frayda Levy, The Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, and Rich Dennis. Even after thinking about it for a few weeks, I still can’t figure out why so few stand up and support teachers. I’ll give Lawrence O’Donnell The Last Word with his welcome perspective on learning and on Matt Damon’s comments to teachers. You may also watch it here. THANK YOU LAWRENCE O’DONNELL!

Visit msnbc.com for