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When Radical Teachers Occupy the Department of Education

Is the fight to end school testing comparable to the abolition of slavery?

by
Paula Bolyard

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April 8, 2013 - 10:00 am
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Did you happen to catch “Occupy the D.O.E. 2.0” at the Department of Education over the weekend? If you missed it, you’re not alone. It didn’t receive quite the attention some of the other Occupy events have received and it was only an “Occupy” event if by “Occupy” you mean people congregating in soccer-mom chairs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with an hour break for lunch) and evening entertainment at Busboys & Poets at 5th and K Street. And hotels at night.

The Thursday-Sunday event was sponsored by United Opt Out, a group whose main mission is to convince teachers and families to opt out of high-stakes testing and to “resist all market-based reforms that seek to privatize and destroy public education.” The lineup of speakers included a collection of academic elites, union leaders, community organizers, teachers, and students. They only managed to attract a few dozen activists, which is why you probably didn’t see much about it on the news. But it’s important to hear what they had to say because these leaders in the education movement will have an important voice in shaping the schools many of our children and grandchildren will attend in the future.

While the speakers who were associated with United Opt Out were on-message, documenting their complaints about standardized testing and the corporate interests pushing the Common Core, other speakers attempted to work this message into their standard stump speeches and this is where it seemed to merge with your typical Occupy rally: There were dozens of different complaints and few (if any) solutions proposed.

As you might expect at a faculty lounge Occupation, there was plenty of radical rhetoric and Utopian vision-casting. (Most of the livestreamed videos are archived here, and you can read the speaker bios here.)

Shaun Johnson is a former public school teacher and online radio show host at the Chalk Face. He thinks teachers are too “meek” and need to get angry:

It’s finally about time that we start getting pissed off and angry…Nothing’s going to change unless people start cracking some skulls. I’m sorry, so, if you don’t get angry and go out there and start speaking out and not be so afraid, then nothing’s going to change. Because there’s a lot of money out there working against us. And we don’t have that kind of money. We don’t have that kind of political power. So we’ve gotta do something. Throw our bodies on the machine. But something’s gotta change. Something’s gotta give. And like I said, we’ve gotta start cracking some skulls.

It might be a good time to point out that they actually do have “that kind of money.” The NEA was the top contributor to state and federal races in 2008, with $45 million, more than 90% going to Democrats. And that doesn’t include tens of millions the teachers’ unions spend on political activity that is reported to the Department of Labor and doesn’t show up on campaign finance reports.

Johnson also led the crowd in a profanity-laced guessing game about the names of charter schools. He implied that kids using at-home charter schools are spending their days engaged in cybersex. “What are you doing with your hands?”

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Top Rated Comments   
Okay - couple observations: Professor Henry Louis Taylor takes a lot upon himself - does he not? And to this Tom Poetter... teaching is indeed about teaching. Leave "creating meaning" and "connecting with children, building relationships, passing on the intellectual, emotional, and practical dimension" to parents, families and churches of parents' choosing. We need you to teach - not influence. And the second quote from Poetter's speech... Marx couldn't have said it better! If these people represent a true cross section of the public school system - GET YOUR CHILDREN OUT - NOW!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (6)
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Giving education over to a centralized federal government power grab was the single worst event for children in public education history.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You know the one speaker who talked about the evils of social media and how kids always have ear buds on? Those kids are probably blocking out all the communist nonsense these "teachers" are spouting every day.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm hearing that they want to link Common Core testing to US college admissions making impossible for children to get into college here without having a record of Common Core testing. If that's so, this is getting very scary. It's a true dagger to the heart of the home schooling and private schooling movements and industries, and it needs to stop. The only consolation I have is that by the time my son gets to that level, the education bubble will have burst and university education from the US won't be worth anything, so we'll be having to send him abroad somewhere to get an education at that level or universities will once again be centered on educating if they still exist here.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The unfortunate truth is that, with the exception of Hillsdale College and Grove City College, all schools are tied to the federal government through the federal financial aid system (Pell grants, federally subsidized student loans). Because of that, the government can pretty much could call the shots on admissions if they wanted to--even for private schools. They could decide to withhold funding from schools that don't comply with Common Core requirements if they wanted to.

Will they do that? Hard to say. Colleges and universities are a powerful lobby. I'm not sure they'd stand for the federal government keeping out some of their best and brightest students (this would also keep out foreign students, right?). Homeschoolers also have a powerful lobby and would not go quietly into the night. But a lot of this is being done behind closed doors, so it's hard to say.

On a side note, a few years ago Hillsdale decided to get out of the teacher accreditation business when MI decided not to accredit teachers anymore and instead, joined the federal system. Hillsdale decided it would be too intrusive into their curriculum (and would dumb it down with all the silly required courses) to have to jump through all the federal hoops). Education majors who graduate from Hillsdale can either jump through the federal hoops at another MI school for accreditation (after graduation) or choose to teach at a private or charter school. (Hundreds of charter schools come to Hillsdale every spring to recruit teachers.) It just shows another way the feds are getting their hooks into our lives and a small way one school is taking a forward-looking stand against it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Okay - couple observations: Professor Henry Louis Taylor takes a lot upon himself - does he not? And to this Tom Poetter... teaching is indeed about teaching. Leave "creating meaning" and "connecting with children, building relationships, passing on the intellectual, emotional, and practical dimension" to parents, families and churches of parents' choosing. We need you to teach - not influence. And the second quote from Poetter's speech... Marx couldn't have said it better! If these people represent a true cross section of the public school system - GET YOUR CHILDREN OUT - NOW!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Government schools are only PC propaganda pushers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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