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Jesse Hagopian’s new website: I AM AN EDUCATOR

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I AM AN EDUCATOR is a new website dedicated defending the humanity of the educator and a vision of education that contributes to creating a socially just society.

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       On February 1, 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck.  Outraged by the city’s response–in what was a long history of neglect and abuse of its Black employees–1,300 African American men from the Memphis Department of Public Works went on strike. This struggle soon captured national attention as Martin Luther King, Jr. took his “Poor People’s Campaign” to Memphis in an effort to fuse the movements for racial and economic justice.   At one march for the sanitation workers, more than 200 strikers marched through Memphis carrying placards with the message, “I AM A MAN.”

       This would be Dr. King’s final struggle, as he was assassinated while helping to build this movement.

       Yet the sanitation workers would go on to win their strike, and on April 16, 1968 reached a settlement that included union recognition and wage increases.

       Today, educators would do well to remember the lesson of the power of fusing civil rights movements with labor activism.  As public education and teachers come under increasing attack by corporate education reformers, educators today are being forced to defend their very humanity.

       Well-funded but non-accountable organizations, such as the Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have invested their wealth to promote the policies of “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”.   These policies that purport to demand teacher accountability but ultimately reduce students and teachers to test scores–data points used to fire teachers, narrow the curriculum, keep students from graduating, privatize education, and close down scores of schools (primarily those that serve Black, Latino and students of color) across the nation.

       In a particularly inhuman attempt to transform living, breathing, teachers into lifeless bits of data, the Los Angeles Times published a 2010 article titled, “Who’s Teaching L.A’.s Kids?”, which provided rankings of some 6,000 teachers  according to student test data and sorted them into the categories of “Most effective, more effective, average, less effective, or least effective.”  One LA public school teacher described the brutality of the LA Times’ publishing of her test scores, saying it made her feel “like I was on public display, like a human being on the auction block or something.”  LA educator, Rigoberto Ruelas, a popular fifth-grade teacher in a Los Angeles’ Miramonte Elementary, committed suicide soon after the publication of his test scores labeled him “less effective.”  Suicide rarely has a single cause, and is usually is the result of many socially preventable hardships, but friends reported that Ruelas had been distraught specifically because of his public shaming over the test scores of his students.

       It is astounding and shameful that the bankers who sabotaged the global economy–which exacerbated the social conditions and lack of opportunity that contributed to the underperformance of Rigoberto’s students–remain free from persecution, yet public shaming of our educators is celebrated as “accountability” and the key to the betterment of the nation.

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       However, a new movement is emerging across the country to assert that teachers and students are more than a test score and that the intellectual process of teaching and learning cannot be measured, or inspired, by bubbling answer choice “E.”  In the first months of 2013 alone, Seattle teachers have launched a historic boycott against the MAP test, students in Portland have walked out of school in protest of the standardized OAKS exam, students in Chicago have staged a walkout against the both standardized testing and school closures, hundreds of parents in Long Island have opted their children out of a high stakes test, and some 10,000 parents, students, and educators in Texas have rallied against the over use of testing in the public schools.

       As our movement develops, it would do well to advocate an alternate vision for education that is, as Paulo Freire asserted, to liberate our young people from oppression, rather than to make the United States more competitive in the global economy. This is a vision of education where the purpose is to develop social responsibility, creativity, leadership, and critical thinking—skills young people will need to challenge the dire problems we face today such as war, mass incarceration, economic collapse, and climate change.

       Sign up and follow Jesse Hagopian’s Lesson Plan for Liberation

-Dora Taylor

6 comments on “Jesse Hagopian’s new website: I AM AN EDUCATOR

  1. Anonymous
    November 5, 2013

  2. Susie Watkins
    June 2, 2013

    Hear Here, Bob!
    Open discussion of well-researched factual data is the opposite of top-down dictates that actually imposing an ideology. Profound change is being sold by unexamined catch phrases to and through under-informed feel-good devotees!
    The WES, SEA and in fact Education by definition, have a mandate to impart Truth in all its expressions from math and science through a recounting of history, unedited! ML King pleaded for educators to teach critical thinking. Responsible citizens in a civil society must have the skills to investigate intelligently, to weigh and process information independently, to assume control of their own lives.
    Right now, our nation’s education system is under siege. States are mindlessly signing away their autonomy to Federal Control, for chump change in “Common Core.” The Constitution has no provision for the Federal Government to have a voice in our state school systems. The dollars received are actually almost 30 times less than the actual cost of implementing the program! (WA: estimated cost: $17,500,000,000…Stimulus bribe: $650,000,000) Still, without public notice, let alone debate, 45 states have agreed to receive stimulus money to transform the creative engines that individual teachers and classrooms can be, the exquisitely unbridled quest for learning and exploring, into assembly line packets of prescribed learning.
    Who would really choose to put out the lights of independence in exchange for unthinking obedience to top-down instructions? In the precious vital area of education as in every area of initiative, we see a creeping deterioration of freedom in exchange for a misguided belief that government can do better than we ourselves can, with our lives. The curriculum of Common Core is a perfect expression of this trend which is terrifying to us who remember individual responsibility and believe the greater good is served by the freedom to choose, grow and create on our own.
    The stampede of enthusiastic devotees for policies which violate the Constitution is symptomatic of the “self esteem” craze and the subverting of valid broad education. Our nation ranks in the lowest 5% of the WORLD in science, math and history education. We Rank Number One in Self Esteem! With the least qualification, we brashly assume the right to make the most radical departures from the very laws that set America on its path to greatness. Impassioned with opinion based on high sounding aims, and no clue of the unintended consequences, the under-informed continue to force through ever greater erosion of the very freedoms under which they are allowed to operate.
    I’m desperate to see how to sound the warning!

  3. rmurphy12
    May 31, 2013

    Jesse – a blog has comments.

    I already belong to the Seattle Education Association (SEA) and Washington Education Association (WEA), where ideas are dumped in the laps of a few members at the last minute, and those few members make decisions for all members with little information and NO PUBLIC DEBATE among the members.

    Just as all our current technologies – writing, moveable type, the printing press – allowed for more information sharing and for more participation, internet technologies COULD be a tool of membership information sharing, debate and participation in the SEA and WEA. Internet tools of open information sharing and debate don’t happen because the insiders of those organizations like their Top-Down phake grassroots – not everyone can be in the photo-op with Cantwell, Murray, Inslee and Gregroire!!

    A movement without OPEN debate, within or outside of the phake grassroots of SEA-WEA-NEA, risks replacing 1 set of insiders with another.

    Bob Murphy

  4. Carol Simmons
    May 30, 2013

    Please plan on attending the Garfield High School Senior Awards Assembly, June 6th at 7:00 p.m. in the Quincy Jones Auditorium.  A Student will be receiving an Award for  successfully “scraping  the Map test.”

    ________________________________

  5. hagopianamy
    May 30, 2013

    Parents and teachers should unite to advance a progressive vision of public education in America. Our education system is the most important determinant of our health and well being as a nation, and we are the ones who must defend it in the public’s interest.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2013 by in A Better Way, Teachers and Teaching and tagged .
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