Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It Buoys Me

Last week I shared some good news with you about pushing back against the corporate education "reform" agenda. I've written well over 200 posts on various aspects of this topic, going back to 2009 when this blog was in its infancy. What first caught my attention back then was the ever-narrowing public school curriculum coupled with an ever-increasing focus on vocational skills and the marginalization of the knowledge and experiences required to be fully-functioning citizens in a self-governing democracy. High stakes standardized testing is a part of that corporate for-profit agenda, and it's that aspect that has finally galvanized our small movement into a growing one, one that's getting harder and harder to ignore.

I'm not saying we're going to win, nor do I even know what a democratic win would look like, but with recent news that over half of Seattle's Garfield High School's junior class are opting out of the Common Core aligned SBAC test, with tens of thousands of students opting out of these tests nationwide, with Congress now proposing new legislation that will declaw the US Department of Education, and with major media beginning to take notice, we have definitely made it a fight.

Our opponents have deep pockets. After all, they are predatorily stalking an "industry" that is approaching $1 trillion a year, making it the second largest segment of the US economy after only healthcare. That's right, there are billions in profits to be earned off the labor of our children, just as there billions being earned off the suffering of people who are sick and dying, and our opponents are funded by those who would profit from that, a sad commentary, I think, on the cruelty of neoliberal economic policies. 

They have the money, but we're starting to show that we have the numbers with our powerful, truly grassroots alliance of students, parents, and teachers leading the parade. And that's how those of us who are not wealthy and powerful must make it happen: we start a parade and as it grows our "leaders" rush to join us. It may sound like cynical joke, but that's how it's supposed to happen. Over the last couple of years, for instance, many of the largest teacher's unions have, often tentatively, joined us. Politicians of all stripes have begun not just giving us lip service but actually taking actions to move states away from the corporate reform agenda. Last week, the Seattle/King County NAACP threw its support behind the Garfield High School community and the wider opt out movement in general.

If we win, when we win, they will then rush to take credit, but no mass movement starts with these "leaders."

This movement started with students, parents, and teachers and has grown because we are right, because we have the best interests of children and our democracy at heart. We have rallied both conservatives and liberals to our side. We have rallied folks from every part of our nation. We are doing it school by school, city by city, and state by state. Media reports often make it seem like an overnight sensation, but I've been at it for six years and others were there long before me.

No one ever said that democracy would be fast or easy, and something needs to be done about the influence of cold, hard cash on our system, but our movement, this movement lead by students, parents, and teachers, is evidence that it can still be done. We are nowhere near finished and the "leaders" who are rushing around to the front of our parade are prone to be blown this way and that by political winds, but our grassroots core is as solid as any I've ever known. I'm not declaring victory, not by a long shot, but we are winning and it buoys me.

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