Yesterday was the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. I brought along my daughter and son for their first experience in democratic protest. I was happy to see that they were impressed and enjoyed witnessing so many people brought together to voice their concerns. I was impressed as well. While the turnout, according to some sources, was smaller than expected but more than those deriding this march claimed would show up, I still wish more had been there. They missed an amazing day.
The heat was awful, the sun felt like it was literally toasting my skin and yet I stood through two hours of speakers, performers, advocates, singers and others without hardly realizing it. I won’t do a play-by-play and I can’t give you the names of every speaker and singer there as I didn’t take notes – I wanted to be immersed in the event, not standing off to the side observing. If you were there and would like to add to the commentary please do so, I appreciate the views of others who were there. So, along with some pictures I took, here are my overall impressions.
There is Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford Professor of Education, who should have been chosen by Mr. Obama to be Secretary of Education, carefully explaining, with data to back up her statements, what high achieving nations do that we don’t in order to have their students perform well. For example, almost none of these nations use standardized tests as part of their regular curriculum. In Finland they don’t test at all. Eat that bee, Michelle Rhee.
There were great slogans on T-shirts and posters all over the ellipse. An entire contingent of Wisconsin teachers were there. In fact, I think there were more teachers from other parts of the country than from D.C. – at least, when they did a call and response to see where teachers came from, that is what it sounded like. I would love to be wrong on that one, however, given the voter turnout in our last election, and the total lack of concern that seems to be happening with the current fight between our Union President and Vice-President, I somehow think I am not. What we need is solidarity, and that sorely seems to be lacking in D.C.
Taylor Mali gave a rendition of his poem What Teachers Make, which if you have never heard before (hard to believe) then you better hit the link. It isn’t him at the march but it is not much different than the rendition he gave on the podium. I listen to Mali’s poem now and again to sort of fire myself up, especially when I am feeling discouraged about what is happening to my profession. You could hear the ripple through the audience when he took the stage because everyone knew what was coming and there were appropriate cheers and hoots throughout his poem.
Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at NYU (in the background) and Jose Vilson, teacher, advocate and poet (in the foreground) were both eloquent in their speech and poem, respectively. Vilson’s poem This Isn’t a Test was wonderful.
For me, things really livened up when Jonathan Kozol took the stage. It is hard not to be a fan of Kozol if you are a teacher. He speaks with compassion and understanding, with insightful knowledge and sharp edged humor about the things that teachers face every day and, especially, the plight of our educational system today. He was as passionate and forceful as I’ve ever seen him. His voice strong and clear belying his slight frame and his age. Kozol speaks truth to power and is often derided for it by the pundidiots on Fox News. I wish, as I always wish after hearing him, that I had the full text of his speech. I would still like the full text of the speech he gave at the International Readers Convention in Chicago in 2005.
It was great to see both Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch on the same stage. I follow their Bridging Differences Blog and enjoy their exchanges about education. On stage this day they both were in agreement about the false direction reformers (or deformers) are leading education towards and how we must not give up the fight to make our public education be what it should be – an opportunity for every child, regardless of income, to learn and be educated and to, hopefully, improve on their lives.
The last two speakers to take the stage were Carlsson Paige and her quite famous son, Matt Damon. Damon gave what Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post called a clear headed speech. It was filled with common sense that all teachers and anyone who understands what education should be about could appreciate. I think it was this part that touched me the most and made me shout out in agreement:
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.
That is the God’s honest truth, none of these qualities can be tested. The reformers want to claim that there is a number that can be pasted on everything. By believing this poor myth they miss so many things. Faith has no number.
Below are more pics of the event. Enjoy! Solidarity!