This is part of a series of letters written by practicing teaching professionals in classrooms around America. These teachers have daily direct contact with schoolchildren. K12NN is proud to present Letters to President Obama. Letters were delivered to President Obama as part of an overall conviction by many teachers that federal education policies, as currently implemented, are not benefiting public school students.
About the writer: La Pluma Poderosa is an early childhood educator based in San Francisco fighting the corporate push into public education.
November 30th, 2013
Dear President Obama,
I am an early childhood educator with many years of experience in the profession. It is extremely distressing to me to see corporate interests taking over our early childhood classrooms. Play is being pushed out and replaced with drill and kill. Instead of our children exploring their world and asking questions, they are being prepped for high-stakes testing. Instead of discovering scientific principles on their own or with the guidance of an expert teacher, they are being prepped to take computer adaptive tests. Instead of building autonomy and social skills, they are being prepped for a future in which there is one right answer and no variants will be allowed. Instead of learning how to work in a team and collaborate they are being prepped for tests that pit them against their peers.
Society is strengthened when all children are able to tap into what makes them unique; when their interests are fostered; and when they are valued as vital members of society. Secretary Arne Duncan can only see what data will let him and he is unable to see our children as the creative individuals we know they are. Arne Duncan lacks basic empathy and chooses not to see the damage foisted on our public school children by way of standards written by business people, high-stakes tests that only serve the stockholders, and tying teacher evaluations to test scores. No one wins this ‘race to the top’ except for those profiting from corporate education reform. The losers are all public school children forced into scripted curricula and one size fits all testing.
The US is the wealthiest country in the world yet more than 16 million children live below the federal poverty line, 22% of all children. To add to this, 45% of all children in the US live in low-income households. The US ranks second last among developed nations in terms of childhood poverty. The US also ranks 131st in the world when it comes to the premature birth rate. This is the data that matters and this is where the scores need to be raised. It is not a matter of raising expectations but a matter of raising empathy and a matter of providing for all children in this very wealthy country. History will judge and it will not look kindly on those who profit from stepping on our most vulnerable children. Neither will it look kindly on people who try to implement a business model in our public schools. What is needed right now is education policy that supports all children, that puts art teachers (and more) back in the classroom and that provides wrap-around services for all children. It is only then that the rising tide will lift all boats. This is the civil rights issue of our time, and you are uniquely positioned to effect change that really will make a difference for the most vulnerable members in our society.
La Pluma Poderosa