Education Opinion

Why I Have to March Once More

By Nancy Flanagan — June 30, 2011 3 min read
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In July, the Save Our Schools March --which is now undeniably a national movement--is asking those who are marching on July 30 in Washington D.C., and those support, endorse and cheer this movement, to share their thoughts on why they’re marching. I’m proud that David Greene is leading the pack, here at Teacher in a Strange Land.

David Greene is a former social studies teacher in New York, in Greenburgh, Scarsdale and the Bronx. He’s an adjunct professor and field supervisor for Fordham University Graduate School of Ed, mentoring Teach For America corps members in the Bronx. He is on the staff of WISE Services, an organization that helps high schools create and run experiential learning programs for seniors. He advises the Foundation For Male Studies and The Boy Initiative, is a HS football coach, and a member of the Save Our Schools Call to Action Organizing Committee.

The only time I ever marched on Washington D.C. was the Moratorium to end the Vietnam War in November 1969. Hundreds of thousands marched through the cold streets of Washington D.C. while FBI agents took pictures of us as we shouted “Peace Now” and waved our flags and signs. My friend and I constructed a giant (we thought it novel) Peace Flag that was eventually used up on the speaker’s platform. We were so proud. We slept on the gym floor of a local church. When it was time to leave, at first we couldn’t find our bus to go back to NY, but eventually we did. Frankly, it’s all a blur but a worthwhile one.

I was not a joiner, a marcher or a protester. I was not much of an activist, either. I had friends who were deeply involved in the movement but I was happy just to get involved in conversations, to do my little part to convince people, one at a time, that the War was wrong. However, when friends were deployed I felt it important to do more. So I marched.

Here we are 42 years later. I will march on Washington this July because again we must stop a war. This time it is the war against teachers, students, and education. Over the past 10 years what started as an intervention has become a full-scale assault. The parallels with Vietnam are astounding.

Now, as then, presidential decisions began with giving “assistance in the battlefield,” but became congressional acts to fund, arm and send troops. Corporations were enlisted to fund and manufacture the goods to fight. Escalation became the operating word.

At first, I was content to argue against standardized testing, No Child Left Behind, and Race To The Top. This time, I pointed out how a new education-industrial complex (not the old military-industrial complex) had seized control of education policy, for their own profit.

What once seemed like a good idea, Teach for America, had morphed into a kind of 5th branch of the armed forces. At first it innocuously sent “advisors” in small numbers to educational “battlefields”. But its power and numbers escalated.

Think of how the military recruits young men and women: “Join the Army- Be All You Can be!"--"Looking For A Few Good Men!"--"It’s Not a Job, It’s an Adventure!"--"Join the Air Force- Aim High!”

Or-- “Teach for America- This could be the best career decision you make!

TFA recruits are thrust into a war zone, less prepared than my friends were 42 years ago. Often misled and naive twenty-somethings, they are unarmed when trying defeat the enemies of education: poverty, poor training, poor leadership, and a host of other saboteurs.

Forty-two years later, I’m going to Washington to march again. But this time I go as more than a marcher. I go as an organizer, presenter, and activist. I do all this because the Chief Executive, Congress, and an Industrial Complex--including TFA--threaten the vocation I have loved for 41 years.

I march because of the kids and programs I see threatened by this assault.

I march because of what this war on education is doing to my former teaching colleagues, and the new teachers with whom I work.

I march to share how good schools can be if we let professionals do the work.

I march to fix the training of new teachers, helping them fight the real battles they and our students face every day.

I march to get TFA to change: to work with traditional teacher training institutions, to stop vilifying veteran teachers and invite them to assist our novices; to recruit top talent to stay in teaching-- becoming teaching “lifers”.

I march to get TFA to listen.

I march for change.
I march for reform.
I march for academic freedom.
I march for curricula and methodologies that will develop well-informed, problem-solving critical thinkers.

Most of all I march for our kids.
As Phil Ochs sang...

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.