Tell Them You Are From the Rouge Forum

By Greg Queen

On March 1st and 2nd, several of us attended the Michigan Council for the Social Studies (MCSS).Like many education centered organizations, the MCSS tended to emphasize the importance of standardized testing, curriculum alignment, etc in education reform.Last year, the Rouge Forum and the Whole Schooling Consortium sponsored a booth and a group of us offered an alternative position towards education and education renewal.We discussed the role of unions in the current movement towards standardization and critiqued the impact that high-stakes standardized tests are having upon students, teachers and communities.It was a success to the degree that the pro-standardized group had to deal with an opposition and those looking for an opposition found one.We were unable to person a booth this year but we still had some exciting moments.

The Whole Schooling Consortium and the Rouge Forum declared and is organizing a May 5th demonstration at Wayne State University in Detroit against Michigan’s form of standardized tests called the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).The demonstration will be held during the weeks that the high school form of the MEAP is administered.Our goal is to make a unified public statement that “Enough is Enough!”We demand real structural reform as spelled out in the principles of the Whole Schooling Consortium.If you are here in Michigan you are invited to participate in organizing the demonstration.Times and dates of meetings may be found at the following website  So far we have made a variety of flyers to distribute which was our main goal at the MCSS conference. 

At the MCSS conference, we placed flyers throughout the conference center.I have never really participated in such an activity and the heart was pounding.After a while, it was fun especially when we watched people walk past the flyers, stop, and go back to get one.By the end of the conference, people were coming up to us askingfor flyers.It was great.I really got a kick out what happened next. 

The MEAP department was originally in the Michigan Department of Education but once the state start bribing the rebelling wealthier districts with a cash reward for passing the MEAP, it was moved to the Treasury Department.The executive director of the department is a thirty-year ex-employee from Ford Motor Company who at a debate said the MEAP was not about politics or power.The coordinators in Michigan for the Social Studies portion of the MEAP are Bruce Brousseau and Karen Todorov (the latter is still located in the Michigan Department of Education).For the past few years, these two have held joint session to “educate” teachers in regards to the MEAP.Each year, I have asked Bruce Brousseau questions concerning the MEAP and each year he has attacked the criticism and the criticizer.In my estimation he is extremely arrogant, an authoritarian and by now has become fed up with the Rouge Forum.At the National Council for the Social Studies, he attempted to disrupt a session held by members of the Rouge Forum and he was easily quieted.Some of us decided to attend a session held by Bruce and Karen tilted “Scoring the MEAP.”

The goal of the session was to inform teachers on how to score the writing portions of the Social Studies MEAP which is only about 10% of the whole test because most of the test is multiple choice.We sat in the front row where Bruce was speaking.Although I do not disagree with some of the suggestion he was making to help kids become better writers, I find the grading of these things such a ‘gotcha’ mentality.Funding can be based on these methods of assessment.While he was speaking I was writing the following: 

“It, the MEAP, is a vocabulary word that goes against the common good.It is important to remember that the patriots of the American Revolution, first union organizers and the Civil Rights Movement violated the rule of law.I am a high school teacher who thinks the MEAP is a public policy issue that needs to be stopped and as we saw in Dubya’s speech, the anti-testing crowd is gaining ground.We invite you to engage in democracy and join a demonstration against the MEAP on May 5th, as Wayne State University.” 
For those Michiganders reading this, you will recognize a lot of the lingo that these MEAP heads use.For some reason, Bruce likes to use the rule of law as an example.During the last five minutes of their session, I raised my hand and waited for permission to speak.When he called on me, I stood and read the above quote.The moment I started to read the quote, he was literally shouting in my ear that I should tell the participants that I was from the Rouge Forum.He was saying, “TELL THEM!  TELL THEM YOU ARE FROM THE ROUGE FORUM.  TELL THEM.”  I calmly continued to read the above quote and walked out of the room.As people walked out, I handed them flyers and there were many folks wanting them.One person was just appalled at how arrogant Bruce was.He really made a fool of himself and revealed that those running this MEAP hooey are real authoritarians.For each of their following sessions, we handed flyers to individuals going in and out of their sessions.

Many folks were pleased to see that someone is organizing an opposition to the standardized testing cracks and calling for more meaningful educational changes.

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