Today, America’s young people face the gravest threat they have confronted since the Vietnam War. In the 60’s, their lives were endangered by a Bi-Partisan military initiative destined to fail. Today, their minds are threatened by a Bi-Partisan educational initiative that Is squeezing creativity and joy out of the nation’s public schools.
The Vietnam War generated one of the largest domestic protest movements in modern American history, eventually forcing the US to withdraw its troops from this terrible military adventure; we need a protest movement of equal size to force the insane levels of testing out of our public schools, tests which in their linkage to teacher evaluations, are turning all instruction into test prep.
The Musicians and poets then rose to the occasion, developing songs like Credence Clearwater’s “Fortunate Son” and Country Joe and the Fish’s “Fixing to Die Rag”to arouse the public against an unjust and unnecessary war and to force the US government to withdraw its troops.
We need a similar mobilization of songwriters and poets behind parents, students and teachers forcing the US government to withdraw its tests by Refusing to take them!
It is in that spirit that I have taken the first line of “Fixing to Die Rag” and applied it to education
“So It’s One, Two Three What Are We Fighting For”
OK, Parents Teachers and Students, This is What we are fighting For
** Classrooms where children’s potential and aptitudes guide instruction, not the profits of test makers or the needs of future employers
** Schools where recess and physical education periods are sacred, times when young people get needed exercise and a release for tension, not another period of test prep.
** Classes which, at all levels,leave room for play and imagination, where children are allowed to be children,and all young people are allowed to dream
**Schools where the arts, and science and school trips are never sacrificed to prepare for tests, and where joy has equal weight as academic achievement
**Schools where testing, when it occurs, is used to help students improve their skills, not sort them out or rate their teachers. No test should ever be given which is not returned to students, teachers and families to assess individual students progress
** Schools where no child, because of their race, or class economic background, is viewed as a potential criminal, and is subject to “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies designed to whip them into line
**Schools where teachers are treated with respect, and encouraged to stay in schools for a long time and develop long term relationships with students and families
**School communities where parent,student and teachers voices are welcomed and shape development of curriculum and school policies, and where the local community is welcome to come in after normal school hours end
** School Governing bodies at the city, state, and national dominated by professional educators, not business leaders, who respect local control of schools and solicit teacher parent and student input.
** A National Education Policy which stops using threats of school closings and privatization to improve student performance and uses cooperative, and not coercive measures to help schools improve
** A Commitment, from all levels of government, to make public schools places where children are nurtured, and loved and inspired in all their diversity and individuality. Where profit isn’t in the equation and where critical thinking is prized and enlightened citizenship is the goal;