Friday, December 27, 2013

Fighting the Good Fight

It's nice to see that more and more people - especially educators - are rising up to fight back against ed reform that does not work.

John Kuhn, is the superintendent of Perrin-Whitt School district in Texas, and gave a rousing speech - back in 2011 - that's a bit of a foretelling of what educators are finally understanding. From the speech:

The poorest Americans need equity, but our nation offers them accountability instead. They need bread, but we give them a stone. We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity. Standardized tests are a poor substitute for justice. 

So I say to Arne Duncan and President Obama, go ahead and label me. I will march headlong into the teeth of your horrific blame machine and I will teach these kids. You give me my scarlet letter and I will wear it proudly, because I will never cull the children who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise. 

I will not race to the top. I will stop like the Good Samaritan and lift hurting children out of the dirt. Let me lose your race, because I'm not in this for the accolades. I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it because it's right. I am in it because the children of Perrin, Texas need somebody like me in their lives. 

Our achievement gap is an opportunity gap. Our education problem is a poverty problem. Test scores don't scream bad teaching. They scream about our nation's systematic neglect of children who live in the wrong zip codes. 

Congressmen, politicians, if you want children that are lush, stop firing the gardeners and start paying the water bill. Politicians, your fingerprints are on these children. What have you done to help them pass their tests? 

And an interesting article from the Mother Crusader blog about the NEXT generation of wealthy philanthropists and their view on helping public education.

A group of young heirs in the Philadelphia chapter of Resource Generation has released a statement that decries any reliance on philanthropy for the funding of public schools; instead, they say, rich people should pay more in taxes.

From the statement submitted by members of Resource Generation, Philadelphia Chapter:

We are a group of people in our 20s and 30s with inherited wealth and class privilege who believe that philanthropy has played a role in contributing to the crisis. Current forms of philanthropy are not leading to the transformation of public schools our city needs.

Will Bunch wrote a blog post recently critiquing philanthropic efforts to "fix" Philadelphia's public education. We agree: When philanthropists pour money into alternatives, like individual charter schools or the privately run Philadelphia School Partnership, they erode the development of a healthy public system that equitably serves all. Funding private alternatives supports small-scale interventions that do nothing to address the root causes of inequality. It also weakens the democratic process.

Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.
As people with wealth, we know how tempting it is to feel we are making a difference by giving away money. But when we give away money while maintaining the power to decide what gets funded, we perpetuate the injustice we think we're addressing. When we solve "other people's" problems while remaining comfortably unimpacted by the issue at hand, we don't make meaningful change.
They give several ideas for change and here's one of them:

Fund organizing efforts by teachers, parents, students and community members that are focused on creating well-funded, locally controlled public schools. These efforts develop leaders, strengthen democracy and lead to change that is desired by those most directly affected.


Wish I knew if Bill Gates or Alice Walton ever considered these ideas or would listen to these young people.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa, for posting this moving speech. I have now spent an hour watching other speeches by Supt. Kuhn, reading his prolific tweets, and appreciating his blog articles. He emboldens me to keep "marching into the crucible of accountability" to stand for the children we educators serve today in our public schools. I hope every legislator will view this speech before the short session starts.

Seattle Principal

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle principal, I think I'll take you up on that idea and send it out to as many legislators as I can.