The educational historian Diane Ravitch asked us all to send a letter to President Obama on October 17th.
Dear President Obama,
I retired from teaching on June 8, 2012.
I started my teaching career at the age of 38 in 1984.
My teaching career took me from A Nation at Risk to the Race to the Top.
You are a person who works in what I know to be an atmosphere of constant crises. And so I wonder how do you think that feels when it is children and teachers working in that kind of atmosphere? Not a world leader. Not a head of state. But six and seven-year olds. And the adults who are charged with teaching and caring for them, working in a constant atmosphere of crisis.
Years ago when I would meet folks for the first time and told them I was a K-5 Art teacher I would get a smile. They would tell me how much fun I must have doing what I do. And if their interest went beyond small talk, they would ask me about issues of teaching and learning.
Now, when I meet people for the first time and tell them what I spent my career doing, they often get agitated. They question me about contracts, tenure, pensions and worst of all, test scores.
Test scores, for goodness sakes. They ask a K-5 Art teacher about test scores!
In 2008, as I stood in Grant Park in Chicago on that wonderful November evening, cheering as the news of your election washed over the crowd, I danced with my wife to Stevie Wonder.
“Here I am, baby. Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours!”
I admit that a change in education policy was not the first thing I thought of that night.
But as the transition period came upon us and you turned the Department of Education over to Arne Duncan, I was concerned. I had experience with Arne Duncan here in Chicago. It was not a good experience.
Nothing has happened over the past four years that changed or even eased my concern.
From A Nation at Risk to The Race to the Top, the atmosphere in schools and classrooms have only gotten worse for both students and teachers. A constant sense of crisis and teaching demands that are totally disconnected from the reality of neighborhoods, of poverty, of cutbacks and school closings.
I look forward to a change in the direction of American education over the next four years. I encourage a change in who heads the Department of Education. And I encourage a change in policies and directives.
My biggest fear is that regardless of who is elected, there will be no change for the better when it comes to federal education policies.
Park Ridge Community School District, Retired