What's Happening in Character?

Save our Schools March in Washington

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Sun, Jul 31, 2011 @ 17:07 PM

Yesterday more than 5,000 teachers and supporters gathered on the Ellipse for the Save Our Schools  rally and march to the White House. I decided to attend along with my son, his wife and her parents, who came down from New York City to show support. Quite frankly, I thought there'd be an even bigger crowd, but I'm sure the nearly 100-degree heat deterred many. Nevertheless, it was an enthusiastic group, and  we heard some excellent speeches.

I was struck by Linda Darling Hammond's statistics--we have 5% of the world's population, but 25% of its prison inmates. She compared how little we spend per pupil for education to how much more we spend to house prisoners. I was moved by Jonathan Kozol's comparison to his marching with Martin Luther King, and how sad it is that the inequalities in education are as bad as ever. And I agreed with everything Diane Ravitch had to say. It all sounded so common sensical. I just don't understand why everone doesn't get it. But clearly, they don't. Hence, the march.

Most surprising was the closing speaker, Matt Damon.  His speech was quite moving.  He said, " As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught....and none of these qualities ...  ... can be tested."

That was one of the main themes of the day, how standardized testing is crowding out so many more important aspects of teaching. My favorite signs addressed this theme. I liked the one that said, "Teaching isn't a job; it's a treasure hunt."  Finding the treasure in each student--nice image.

Another sign: "Do we want standardized students?" I don't think so. We want scientists, artists, builders, writers, dreamers, the full array of human potential.

But my favorite was the one whose art captured so well what many were feeling.

When Matt Damon finished his speech, we began the march to the White House. Our timing was unfortunate, as most eyes were probably focused on Congress trying to find a way to resolve the debt ceiling crisis. But this only made the comparisons I heard even more poignant:  "AYP for Congress. Let them show 100% proficiency by 2014."

Topics: testing, character education in curriculum, student voice, teachers