Education Opinion

Signs of Passion

By Nancy Flanagan — July 11, 2011 2 min read
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A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side.

Buffalo Springfield

Two purposes for this post:

#1) To inform those who will be rallying at the Save Our Schools March on July 30 in D.C. to:

a) Bring their own sign, expressing their personal passion over what’s happened to public schooling in America, their children’s learning--or the concept of building a strong society through democratic equality.


b) Be assured that there will be materials available at the SOS Conference and on the Ellipse before the Rally, to create an extemporaneous cardboard missive.

(And of course, being teacher-types, we want to remind everyone to properly dispose of signs afterward, be courteous to those around you, and always do your homework.)

#2) To think about the key reasons involved in marching on the nation’s Capitol--and the range of messages those reasons might generate.

You have to be pretty angry--and convinced that things are seriously headed in the wrong direction, a runaway train of bad “reform"--to show up in Washington D.C. in the middle of the thick, steaming summer and demonstrate. Everyone has a triggering passion, and those furies are diverse. The Save Our Schools movement is fed by many streams, and is not ideologically pure. It’s a kind of “big tent"--with the common value of certainty that the current policy direction is grievously wrong, and must be stopped.

So--there are lots of things that could appear on signs:

  • Pleas for sanity on rampant, unnecessary testing that does nothing to improve instruction or learning, but is filling the coffers of testing companies.

  • Worries about losing curriculum tailored to real kids and real towns as the Common Core Everything sweeps across the nation (prodded by federal RTTT dollars).

  • Anger over publicly funded (but privately supported) charters scooping up kids and resources that belong to communities.

  • Righteous indignation over the move to dump experienced (and more costly) veteran teachers in favor of two-year adventure teachers.

  • Demands to return decision-making to those closest to kids and classroom: parents, teachers, school leaders, the community.

  • Skepticism about top-down, mandated reforms that haven’t produced solid evidence of success--by any measures.

Or how about: More Cowbell! Less Arne Duncan!

Last Friday night, three student activists--Amy Mayfield and Erika Redlinger of CA, who are preparing to become professional teachers, and Ammaarah Khan, a HS student from NJ--presented a dynamic Save Our Schools webinar.

Ammaarah told the story of her parents, who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1980s, searching for the best place to live so that their children could receive a top-flight public education--something that wasn’t available to them in Pakistan.

Ammaarah’s family is bitterly disappointed in what has happened to the jewel that drew them to this country: a free, high-quality education. They believed it was worth disruption and hardship to come to a country founded on the new idea that all kids--not just the ones with inside info, resources and a low lottery number--deserved equal opportunity. They’re especially dismayed by staggering cuts in the New Jersey schools and all the rich programming they took for granted that’s been hacked away. “I use school to become me!” Ammaarah said.

That would make an amazing sign. Wouldn’t it?

What would--or will--your sign say?

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.