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Save Our Schools - A Great Beginning



My head is still spinning. On Sunday evening I returned from Washington, DC and the Save Our Schools Rally. More than just a rally, it was four days of connecting with other educators, parents, students and activists who are ready to take a giant step towards reclaiming the “public” in public schools.

In my mind I keep replaying moments – both big and small – and feel hopeful that we’re onto something here. Something really big. Something that will help bring attention to the harmful effects that corporate “reform” is having on students, teachers and communities. And give a voice to students who, for a decade, have been shut out of enriching and engaging curriculum and forced into single-purpose, short-sighted, test-driven curriculum.  This is a movement to bring curriculum control into local school communities. It is a call for equitable funding, and for our country to recognize that poverty affects life and learning.  Jonathan Kozol told us that the poorest districts spend $6,000 per pupil, while the richest districts spend $30,000 per pupil. Ouch! And as Deborah Meier (pictured above) pointed out, we are about even with Mexico in terms of our poverty rates – Mexico!  We are looking for equitable funding across public schools AND community support services.

In DC were heard powerful words from Jonothan Kozol, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, Linda Darling- Hammond and Matt Damon. We also heard important words from parent Karran Harper-Royal, an SOS organizer and leader from Parents Across America; along with  John Kuhn, an inspiring superintendent from Texas; and Taylor Mali, a teacher-poet. I sang along as we were treated to a gorgeous rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing; and more – much more! So much, that I didn’t get every speaker’s name. However…one thing is for sure, everywhere you looked in the sweltering heat of the midday sun, parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens joined together to help change the national narrative.

This isn’t about preserving the status quo, because the status quo isn’t anywhere near good enough. I am not out to defend chronically ineffective teachers or historically shoddy schools.  I am for making the public school system the best it can be for EVERY student – and for involving local communities in the process.

For sure it isn’t the end.  And for sure it was a great beginning.  In many ways, it made me wish I was a public school teacher once again, at the very democratic Mission Hill School in Roxbury, MA, which I am proud to have been a part of from the beginning. There, I was a teacher and union member – sharing responsibility and decision making with our founding principal, Deborah Meier, and the other classroom teachers. While in DC, I was thrilled to hear the ways in which the Boston Teachers Union has been a place where teacher activism has flourished. Again, for sure this isn’t the end – and for sure it is a great beginning.

And how does it all relate to Empowered by Play?

To quote Matt Damon:  “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’s so right. The qualities we value most – in the children of yesterday, today and tomorrow – qualities such as imagination and curiosity – can never be measured through a standardized test. These are the qualities that are getting squeezed out of today’s schools, and this has to stop.


Some related links of interest: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman by Real Reform Studios (This is an amazing movie made by full-time teachers – using their own money. No big budget – but a real big message.)

Jon Stewart’s message to the teachers at the SOS March (Hopefully next time he will speak to the issues – but I am thankful for the support he is already showing.)

Save Our Schools Leaders Craft Next Steps from Education Week

Empowered by Play’s SOS March album on Facebook

The text of Matt Damon’s speech posted on Rethinking Schools’ website NOT Waiting for Superman

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