Education Historian Diane Ravitch called on us to write letters to President Obama on October 17th.
October 17, 2012
President Barack Obama
Dear Mr. Obama:
I am a retired teacher and teacher librarian, a mother, and a grandmother. I have worked in education for forty years. I attended all public schools in Los Angeles and went on to a fine public university for both undergraduate and graduate school. I have seen our schools go from places of nurture and caring that provided every subject a child needs, to essentially institutions that teach to the test and discourage creativity. As a teacher I chose to work in the areas of Los Angeles that were considered most dangerous and poverty-stricken. I felt that I was needed there more and I could do the most good.
So far you and your education secretary Arne Duncan act as if most teachers are lazy and unable to teach our students. I find this shocking and outright treasonous. You are judging something about which you know not. Neither you nor Arne Duncan have any idea what it is like to teach in most of our inner city schools. Neither you nor Arne Duncan attended any of these schools, much less rubbed shoulders with the students who are struggling just to get through the day. And, therefore, you haven’t seen what teachers do to keep our students in school, to try to reach them, help them with problems that are beyond monstrous in some cases. We encounter children who are homeless, victims of physical and sexual abuse, victims of neglect, and more. Our children are in neighborhoods where they encounter drive-by shootings and murder. Getting from home to school and back again is a torture.
We are lucky if our students can read by third grade. We are really fortunate if their parents taught them well in their first language so that learning a second language is much easier. Most of the time our students don’t have time to read a book, don’t have parents who can take time off from their two or three jobs to take their children to the library. And they certainly don’t have enough money for a home library.
Do you look at the statistics? Do you see who does well in school and who doesn’t and WHY? It isn’t because we can’t teach. The same teachers teaching the high scoring students are teaching the ones who score the lowest. And often these are the best and most caring teachers. Otherwise they would have gone to a private school at LOWER PAY to get away from the poverty belt.
More high stakes testing, more teaching to the test, and more stunted classrooms with 45 students in them, no art, music, PE or libraries – these conditions will not raise the level of our students. They will do the opposite.
Listen to the experts in Finland. Look at what they do and how they value their teachers. And begin to implement some of THEIR policies and see if our children don’t do better.
But first of all, address the need for decent jobs for our students’ parents, and the need to adequately fund our schools and libraries. Speak to the real pressing needs of our country; stop waging wars in other lands and sending drones to kill innocents. Stop giving money to bail out the banks and start hiring people to rebuild our bridges, roads, schools and parks. Put the money where it is going to benefit the majority and not the 1%.
AND MOST OF ALL, LISTEN TO REAL EXPERTS IN EDUCATION!
They will tell you what I am telling you in this letter, only more eloquently.
40- year educator
Haven’t stopped fighting yet