Saturday, November 30, 2013

Letter to President Obama on Education Policy

Dear President Obama:

As a scholar in African American History and a teacher and coach for
more than 45 years- it is my unhappy duty to inform you that your
education policies have contributed to the lowest morale among teachers 
that I have seen in my lifetime, while failing to narrow gaps in
opportunity or achievement based on race or class.

You may not believe me, but if you were, as I am, in daily contact
with thousands of teachers from inner city to suburb to small town, you
would be as worried as I am. Judging teachers on the basis of student
test scores, as your Race to the Top policy requires, has been an unmitigated disaster;

 so has closing allegedly failing schools on the
basis of such scores. Teachers everywhere now feel they have to teach
to the test; in poor neighborhoods, they fear they will lose their jobs
if they don't make this their sole priority.

Such policies undermine the arts; turn recess and physical
education into a luxury only high performing schools can offer, drive
mentoring and relationship building out of the classroom, and place
teachers at the mercy of accountability officers and data collectors.

The joy and creative learning that your own children experience
in one of the nation's top private schools are being driven out of
public schools throughout the nation with startling rapidity. Teachers
work in fear. Students learn under extreme stress. Parents wonder why
their children have started to hate school.

I don't always agree with your policies; but I never thought of
you as living in a bubble; unwilling to hear inconvenient voices that
force you to re- evaluate and revise ideas your administration has put
forward that fail to stand the test of experience. However, your
stubborn adherence to education policies that have destabilized
neighborhoods,undermined the teaching profession, demoralized teachers
and squeezed joy from the nation's public school classrooms, have
forced me to conclude that you are no long are willing to keep your ear
close to the ground the way great leaders do.

You may think that health care and foreign policy are higher
priorities than education as they deal with issues that are quite
literally matters of life and death; but mark my words, your education
policies will leave as much a blemish on your Presidency as the Vietnam
War did on the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

You have two more years to change course and rescue the legacy
of your Presidency in this critical sphere of policy. The first step
in doing this would be to invite public school teachers to The White
House to tell their stories; the second is to replace Secretary of
Education with someone who has spent at least 10 years in a public
school classroom.


Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association


Ronee Groff said...

Bravo! You have stated the truth and the truth will set the stage for the freedom to learn without an oppressive agenda by a government that has taken an eye off the sparrow. The Spring of Education is now and the President, hopefully, will be guided by your words, wisdom, and professional excellence and history. Thank you for your courage and your leadership. As an Advocate for the Disabled I am eternally grateful. ^0^

greenehawke said...

Devastating truth has spoken. Thank you.

Susan Morris said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Mary Kay Bramble said...

Beautiful. I just hope it gets to him. If it does and he disregards it, I will know that my belief in him has been a mistake and he is a corporatist like the rest of the 1%.

Maureen Keeney's Blog site said...

Thanks Mark You are awesome... Hope to meet you someday Maybe July 2014

Zoologygirl said...

Thank you so much for writing the truth. I feel I am living the Emperor has no clothes in education these days. Teachers know these false data policies are not a good thing but we dare not speak up about it. What a mess has been created in education. Too many of us no longer enjoy our jobs....we still enjoy our students and our school communities but the rest is so unpleasant and stressful.

Steven Zemelman said...

How can we get thousands of teachers to write letters like this? I've been trying to get teachers to use their voice, at . We need to find a way to do this! Please let me know your thoughts.
-Steve Zemelman