Friday, June 13, 2014

How To Deal With A Monster

It's working. We may not be winning, and this is just a strategic retreat on the part of those who would profit from forced child labor by turning our public schools into test score sweat shops, but as Jesse Hagopian reported yesterday on his blog, I Am An Educator, the Gates Foundation is behaving like the Dr. Frankenstein that is coming to fear it's own monster:

(T)he Gates Foundation agrees with those who've decided that assessment results should not be taken into account in high-stakes decisions on teacher evaluation or student promotion for the next two years . . .

In the letter signed by Vicki Phillips, director of education at the Gates Foundation, the full text of which can be found here, they don't, of course, back down from the Common Core State Standards, the monster they almost single-handedly created in a back room process that circumvented all democracy and violated the spirit, if not the letter of the law. They do not back down one inch from their faith-based initiative (and Common Core with its reliance upon high stakes testing is a faith-based initiative, one that is not supported by any actual research on developmentally appropriate education practices) but this letter does demonstrate that our pushback has at least gotten their attention.

We've forced them to acknowledge Common Core's dramatic face-plant in the real world, one that would be comical if children weren't suffering for it. Of course, they aren't taking any of the blame. No, that they reserve for teachers, their favorite scapegoat, who are apparently too ignorant and incompetent to see the beauty in Frankenstein's monster. And let's be clear, this two year moratorium is not being suggested as a time to step back, as logic would dictate, and attempt to incorporate the feedback from actual classroom teachers who are being forced to drive their charges through this developmentally inappropriate national curriculum. This is emphatically not an acknowledgement by the Gates Foundation that those of us who have dedicated their lives to teaching might have valid concerns or ideas or objections. And heaven forbid they listen to parents or even students. No, the Gates Foundation is suggesting this two year break from using standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions because teachers "need more training," and need time to "get used to the tests." Clearly, they think teachers are simply too stupid to get Dr. Frankenstein's genius.

It's not an accident that Common Core was developed without any mechanism for feedback, mid-course correction, or democracy of any kind. This is a top-down initiative. This is the way corporations work, they are hierarchical dictatorships set up in the middle of our democracy and they've unleashed a monster they're are now struggling to control.

We've not won anything here, but at least we know we've wounded the monster, which means it's time to re-double our efforts. On Thursday, June 26, public education advocates from around the country will be rallying on the doorsteps of the Gates Foundation here in Seattle, metaphorical pitchforks and torches in hand, to protest against not only their role in creating this monster, but the entirety of the Dickensian corporate "reform" effort. I will be there. I'd love nothing more to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you.

We will be gathering at Westlake Park at 5 p.m. (come early if you want to make a sign; materials provided), hear some amazing speakers, then march to the corner of Mercer and 5th, the Gates Foundation headquarters, where we will hear more speakers including Anthony Cody, one of our movement's most effective and eloquent leaders.

Bill Gates is Dr. Frankenstein and this monster he's created in his venture philanthropist laboratory must be killed. As the villagers have learned, that's the only way to deal with a monster.

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