By Nancy Creech
I didn’t come into teaching fresh out of college. I wasn’t one of those kids that knew all their lives that teaching was my vocation. I was an ice cream salesman, a dog grooming instructor, a teller, a bill collector, a bank fraud investigator, and a stay at home mom.But now, teaching is something that has grown to be not only my job, but also much of how I define myself; Nancy Creech, woman, wife, mother, teacher.And from that foundation, I have now taken another step in my growth, teacher activist. As I held a picket sign on a campus mall yesterday protesting high stakes standardized testing, and thought of what I could say into an open mike, I had memories of being a child of the 70’s. I held the signs on the Wayne State mall back then too in defense of children. Those were beautiful children, who weren’t of this country, but were innocent victims of action taken by the United States Government. Back then I would chant and listen to the speeches, afraid to make my own voice heard. I was mostly a participatory spectator.
There are children that are victims now too. Although they aren’t victims of the horrible atrocities of the Viet man War, they are still victims of bad government policy, and they need adults to be their voice. Once again it is a question of who is doing “right” for the children.
George Bush says his way is right; rote learning, yearly testing, no social promotion, mandatory summer school. Should those things be hanging over the head of an eight year old? Children list failure in school as one of the three biggest fears they could ever encounter. But George Bush says, not only should kids be tested and retained, but their schools should be graded as failures too. In Michigan last week, the headlines stated, 35% of schools rated as failures. In most cases this was based on a low percentage of children passing the middle school science MEAP. How many children are going to feel good about waking up each morning going to a school that their parents told them was listed as a failure in the paper. One of the schools listed was a “second chance” school for kids who had already had problems attending the regular high school because of teenage pregnancy or behavior issues. Now these kids given a second chance are told that it would be a second chance at a “failing school.” George Bush says his way is right, but most of those failing kids in those failing schools are from urban areas. They come from poor families many of which don’t speak English. They are struggling to have the American dream. George Bush says they will get it from rote learning, yearly testing, no social promotion, andmandatory summer school.
All Mr. Bushhas isthe empty claim about his so-calledTexas educational"miracle.". All I have is the smiles on the faces of the kids who come into my classroom every day to learn, to wonder, to explore, to enjoy the fascination of discovery and begin to build asense of who they are..They are not learning by rote.They are developing intellect. Intellect that will serve them much better in the future than the rote memorization of obscure facts.
So, I’m back on the mall of Wayne State University. There is no Rita Coolidge or Kris Kristoferson. There is no passing around of the joint.It’s thirty years later, and I am once again speaking for children. But this time I am much more courageous, and hopefully much wiser, although the people running the government don’t seem to be.
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