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Dr. Diane Ravitch: Leading the Fight to Fix America’s Schools

May 1, 2013

If you are an American teacher, you should know the name Diane Ravitch. Chances are many of you do not; if that’s the case, do yourself a favor & get educated…Dr Ravitch is indisputably THE pioneer who’s leading the fight to dismantle the corporate takeover of public education today. If anyone knows how to fix the schools, it’s Dr Ravitch; when this privatization movement unravels, when schools again become institutions of real learning & not test-prep centers anymore, when teachers are once again able to TEACH, Diane Ravitch’s name will be behind it all. This woman has dedicated her life to fighting the battles that affects us (teachers – along with the students we teach) more than anyone else – at the very least, we should be paying attention to the work she does; at best, we should be throwing our full support behind her efforts & doing what we can to assist with them.

Last week, as I was approaching the one month anniversary of my resignation from a 15-year career in the Boston Public Schools, I wrote Dr Ravitch a letter. I was riddled with frustration because of the pervasive feeling of helplessness that had come to consume me. I resigned not to walk away from the classroom and never look back, but to throw all my efforts and energies into fighting this fight. The sense of NEEDING to so SOMEthing but not knowing WHAT, was beyond unsettling to me. & so I decided that reaching out to her was an obvious step in figuring it all out.

Below is a copy of my letter, which I’m honored to say Dr Ravitch felt worthy enough of  posting on her blog, dianeravitch.net. While I’m still not sure exactly what I can do to be most effective in my own efforts now, I hope this is a starting point that will ultimately lead to figuring that out, & eventually making a difference.

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Dear Dr. Ravitch,

I am a newly-resigned, 15-year veteran in the Boston Public Schools.
I had to get out; I spent years obsessing over the internet trying to make sense of what was happening & why I was continuing to let it. All my research did was leave me feeling more confused, & thinking I could spend forever trying to make sense of nonsense.
On 4/1 I regisned.
On 4/5 I was testifying before the Joint Committee on Education in support of some MCAS bills. I hope my testimony was powerful.
On 5/7 I plan to do the same; this time it’ll be on charter schools.
I plan to testify at as many hearings as possible until it makes a difference.
I’ve reached out to the directors at Citizens for Public Schools (Massachusetts’s advocacy group) & am very much looking forward to working with them in any capacity that they need.
 
I’ve already grown impatient with how time-consuming the whole legislative process is; what’s happening within our schools is a CRISIS, & each passing day brings new evidence supporting that claim. There’s NO QUESTION high-stakes tests are BAD; teaching to the test is BAD; businessmen making decisions about non-business related matters, especially when children are involved, are BAD. & we hope someday legislation makes things GOOD again, but the legislative process isn’t exactly efficient, so in the meantime…what? We just continue along as expected, regardless of the damage?
 
I resigned from the BPS because I couldn’t justify doing what I was doing each day by complying with malevolent mandates and stupid sanctions while knowing the harm it would cause. This was NOT what I was put on this earth to be doing; this was HARMING children, including my OWN!
I could never explain to myself WHY I was continuing to do it; all I knew was that as long as i was in the BPS, I’d be doing it. Refusing to comply all by myself wouldn’t be effective, & I longed to sleep at night again, so I left. I am the single mother to a 6, 7, & 8 year old boy, & I left my only source of income behind when I did. THAT’S how bad things are.
 
Today my priority is doing whatever i can to help undo this corporate takeover and get the schools back on track. But again, the legislative process is a slow one, & the harm’s been already overwhelming & substantial enough. I believe drastic measures are in order, at this point. & I believe it has to come from within the schools…the teachers are the only real ones who have any say in what is going on in the classrooms, so why aren’t they uniting to do something about it? In MA, at least, it’s starting to already feel too late…
 
There is not a teacher in America who SUPPORTS this corporate reform. Individually, we all vehemently oppose it; our blood boils because of it; we know it’s toxic. Collectively, however, we DO support it. We support it each & every day, no matter how it contradicts our entire pedagogy. No matter how much it sucks to live life like that…going against the core of who we are, we obey the rules. WHY? WHY ARE WE CONTINUING TO BE EVER-SO-OBEDIENT?
 
I spent over 2 years desperately seeking that answer to that very question; only to become more & more unable to – & that’s why i resigned.
& one of the many intense emotions that came with making that decision was Anger. Anger towards the teachers for making this happen. Anger towards myself as a teacher for making it happen. 
I believe if the teachers come together & have some conversation, change will happen. The faster we do that, & the more teachers we reach out to include, the faster the change will come.
Someone just needs to gather up all the teachers now. I would; I feel like I’ve been only thinking about doing so all month. I just don’t know how. So I decided to reach out here, thinking you could help. 
I may live in fantasyland to some degree, & I’ve realized this past month how shamefully little I knew of the policy & procedure & logistics of “this” side of Ed Reform – the external side. & I don’t know realistically what the teachers could even do or how it’d work, but I feel like a conversation needs to happen. & I also think the best way to start the conversation would be to ask every teacher to answer the following question:
 
“Why do you continue to comply with malevolent mandates & stupid sanctions that you KNOW only serve to HARM your students, your schools, your VOCATIONS?”
 
& for those who, like me on 4/1, respond with, “I don’t know”, the follow-up question is, then, 
“Why do you continue to do it, then?”
 
It was asking that of myself that made me realize, I can’t.
& the only way I knew how to stop was to walk away.
But what happens when each teacher refuses to comply anymore IN SOLIDARITY with one another?
The answer, it seems, is obvious.
So why haven’t we done it yet?
How bad does it really have to get before we do???
 
At the beginning of March, I came across this quote from Rethinking Schools,
“At the most basic level, national corporate school reform 
agenda REQUIRES teacher’s compliance. Regardless of 
individual motives, when a group of teachers COLLECTIVELY 
& publicly says NO, that represents a fundamental challenge
to those pursuing that elite agenda.”
 
The logic behind that assertion is indisputable. That statement is obvious.
So what are we waiting for??

 

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