Sunday, June 30, 2013

Support State Bills to repeal acceptance of Race to The Top in your state.

This is the text of a speech I gave at a Long Island Rally in support of Assembly Bill A7994. I am almost 64 years old. I have spent all but 4 of those in NYS public schools either as a student, teacher for 38 years, coach, or teacher mentor. This was on the front page of my local newspaper…. I bet it is not unlike yours. STATE FAULTS GRAD PREP. According to the state, and what they have given the ridiculous name of The Aspirational Performance measure… to be college and career ready, a high school graduate must score at least a 75 on their English Regents and at least an 80 on an Algebra Regents. I went to the Bronx High School of Science, one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation because I passed a test in the 9th grade. I received a BA (cum Laude) from Fordham University, an MA from CCNY, and have earned an additional 90 graduate credits…. However, according to the State’s APM, I was neither college nor career ready because I never got higher than an 80 on ANY math Regents…. even at the Bx HS of Science. How many of you are HS graduates? How many, like me would not have been “C&C ready”?
I met 16 year-old Tyree 2 years ago while mentoring his TFA semi trained teacher in the Bronx. He was still in the 8th grade. He was on the verge of being tossed out of his Bronx middle school even though everyone knew he was one of the brightest kids there. He and I connected. When I asked him why he was failing, he said… “I can’t stand this. Why should I be doing the same “frckn” thing since I was in 3rd grade? He is typical. They took his passion, his curiosity, and his humanity and replaced it with boredom. 
When did we lose our way? The founding fathers knew that in a democracy public schools were necessary to have an informed citizenry. Public schools are not just to develop reading and math scores. Public schools are meant for the development of well-rounded adults able to contribute to their communities in whatever way they can, as college professors and auto mechanics, computer scientists and sanitation engineers. Public schools are meant to teach not just academics, but citizenship, and humanity. Public schools, next to family, are the most important institution in the socialization process of developing mature capable adults in our society. When did they turn into factories creating test scores, not adults?
 Many of you see your boys and girls, little and big, hating and getting stressed in school precisely because of what schools are increasingly forced to do in this DOE controlled prescribed manner. But why is there a prescribed manner? I taught American History for years. One extremely important era was the post Civil War Gilded Age when US Congress was owned lock, stock, and barrel by the powerful Trusts of that era. A very famous political cartoon of the time depicted a legislative chamber watched over by HUGE figures of trusts represented by the FAT INDUSTRIALISTS of the era, like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie.
 Similarly, education bills all over the country today are being guided by our version of these Fat Cats: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the Koch brothers, Eli Broad, and the Walton Family…. Today they are profiting from the education of our children by buying politicians from DC to Albany and indoctrinated them with their pseudo-science and their INADEQUATE $700 million BIG BUCKS!!! George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Wendy Kopp, Michelle Rhee and countless other so-called educational reformers have hijacked our education system. They provide corporations like Pearson profit at the cost of our children! They “embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” …Like the Common Core and Standardized testing. 
NYS, for better and worse, has had K-12 syllabi and curricula for decades that other states hoped to emulate. It wasn’t perfect, but it was not prescribed. It wasn’t forced down the throats of schools, teachers, and children. They replaced it with Race to The Top formulas and The Common Core. We have to make our political leaders regret that decision to be bought off, bribed, and blackmailed by Arne Duncan’s and the Federal DOE.
I went to elementary school in a poor working class integrated South Bronx neighborhood. I learned to love school in 2nd grade because I was encouraged to learn by Ms. Rita Stafford, a teacher who thoroughly engaged all of us… We learned astronomy by hanging a solar system from the ceiling. We learned how to help our parents in neighborhood stores by learning long division. We learned how to fight for civil rights and for what is right by writing letters to President Eisenhower during the Little Rock crisis. We were published in the NYT. SHE is why I am here today. I am the SEED she planted! Because we love our children we must fight for their right to have a teacher like my Ms. Stafford, and perhaps many of yours who planted the seed of who you are today. Because we love our children, we must fight for the education they and the future of this country deserve. We must be sure we allow our children to flower as we have. Fight to repeal RTTT in NYS. Fight to get Assembly Bill A7994 passed.
With apologies to Quentin Taratino, and the movie Inglourious Basterds.. “Ed deformers ain’t got no humanity. They’re the foot soldiers of a teacher hating, kid smothering maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. “…But I got a word of warning for all you would-be warriors. When we joined this command, we took on a debit. A debit we owe our children personally. “

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