First, a disclaimer that this post rambles a bit. Mostly because I tried in earnest to practice brevity and this was the best I could do. So bear with me. Please.
I was just thinking to myself, it may seem I’m against the CPS strike. Hmm. I’m against them striking instead of teaching, yes. And I believe all teachers need the same accountability and union support (or lack thereof) of a non-tenured teacher. Yet, I also believe that they are fighting for fewer children in the classroom and less testing.
I have worked with 35 5th graders in my classroom and no aides or parent helpers. 35 kids, some who are special ed, some not functioning or able to function above the kindergarten level. English language learners, struggling with our strange language. 70-100% on free or reduced lunch; meaning, a family of 4 makes $40,000 or less per year. That’s tough. Some studies say class size doesn’t matter I’ve been with groups of 35 students, or 8. It does matter. I’ve been in college courses with over 200 students, or 10, It matters.
And testing? Oh my. Do not get me started. I have plenty of research to back myself up here (I am writing a book…so if you want sources, they’ll be there) and testing is not just to see “how the kid is doin'” as we may think. No. I mean, okay, that is a part of it but not the entire story. It is used to categorize students and track them. Certain scores mean you get the “life skills” track of sup bar vocational ed and dumbed down classes. Others, GATE programs and college scholarships, the “best’ teachers, magnet schools and the like. Just like Prussia did which our education is modeled after…and that too, is a whole ‘nother story. We copied Prussia, who did offer free compulsory education, state run, for all children…except…the top few percent got a “real” education and the masses got one that taught them to obey and not think for themselves. Then came eugenics, saying anyone “feebleminded” or “colored” was less-than and should be ostracized, sterilized, killed, or at the very least, just managed like cattle. Hitler found America’s eugenic research and we had some wild, horrid ideas we never acted upon, but he did, so it fell out of fashion here. Then came social efficiency, an idea that to, say, educate that colored boy who was in poverty and scored terribly on the test aligned to IQ (nevermind that it was biased or that he hadn’t eaten that day…never mind that psychometricians and psychologists designed the tests as a self fulfilling prophecy to “prove” non-white elitists were indeed inferior….) and hey, colored poor boy, look, since you failed, let’s put you in a class where you learn how to socialize, make girlfriends, and dig ditches. This was seen as fair and just,, because how dare you expose that boy to Shakespeare and logarithms, (God forbid he does something with them and proves us wrong). It was thought of as actually wasteful to give these children an academic education, because that was reserved for the wealthy whites that were born of leaders and born to be leaders.
No joke. So yeah. I don’t like testing much.
However, these reforms suggested by CPS teachers, you know, smaller classes, fewer tests, less accountability, more job security, raises…will not happen in a Great Depression. They will not happen within the complex red-tape bureaucracy we built because we built it to purposely leave out the little guy, the parents, teachers, community. It is top-down managed status-quo control, disguised as “education”, as a “do-good” tool. Who can rally against education? No one. So we rally for it and perpetuate the broken system and cycle.
The only way to change things is, get back in the classroom. Elicit support. Challenge media to make pop culture show education works. That to rise above one’s position as say, a gang member, is not making enemies…bettering oneself is more honorable, tougher, harder, than any graffiti tag or daring criminal act but it can be done. Film a day in class and show the work and struggles of a real teacher. Pass out books by John Taylor Gatto, Eric B Olsen, Todd Farley, Charlotte Iserbyt to EVERY PERSON IN THE COUNTRY. Start reading clubs and discussions and TV shows (heck make one a reality show with cheesy dances, it will be a hit!).
And most of all? Say NO to scripted curriculum, tracking of students, eugenics, social efficiency, control, and standardized testing. Did you know if a school refuses to take the standardized test (the ENTIRE school) they lose about 11% of funding? Can’t we find 11% somewhere, or ways to budget better, so that test developers and politicians stop dangling the carrot-attached-to-the test? Because it is destroying education. Keep your children home on test days. I have heard some states do not allow this, but petition for it to be allowed. I do know that in California, if you approach the school early enough and are persistent enough, you can demand your child NOT take the test and they must honor it. Sure, if enough do it, yep they lose that 11% of funding. But the only way for parents and teachers to regain control is by drastic measures. But teachers are forbidden to tell you that you, the parent, can say no.
Instead of picketing, get back in the classroom. Throw out, stomp, spit on the scripted curriculum, tell people not to take the test, stop thinking of children as money, employment, numbers, statistics and think of them as children, our future, people. Give them an education only you could have not even imagined. Treat third graders like mini college kids. They might surprise you. Teach them to innovate, create, question, collaborate, research, and question some more. Teach them to find problems and propose solutions and work until the solution is met. Tell the union rep, the principal, the media, the parents, that you believe every child can excel beyond anyone’s expectations, we can reach a new age of enlightenment and empowerment. If enough teachers did this (THERE is some SOLIDARITY….) we’d be set. Hundreds of thousands of teachers side with the CPS strikers, and every CPS teacher must oblige due to solidarity. So here’s to a new solidarity…just saying no. Saying no, en masse, to a top-down, dehumanizing, despicable thing we call “education” or “schooling”. Just say yes to helping every child, no matter what it takes. WE CAN DO IT.
Besides, if all 3.7 million teachers in this nation say, to heck with this curriculum, that test, these policies and procedures that belittle our children and dumb them down, categorize them like objects, what would happen? If it takes up to $100,000 and 3 years to rid of an insubordinate, tenured, union teacher (Read Terry Moe’s books for “proof”) what would the union and the districts do with 3.7 insubordinate teachers? Sure you can spend $100,000 to try and not suspend one teacher but 3.7 million?
WE CAN DO IT.