A selection of the emails we’ve received.
On 9/24/10 8:46 PM, a concerned educator wrote:
I am a Social Studies Teacher in NY State. I have been in this profession for almost 10 years. The email I received today from “Rethinking Schools” was quite timely. I just got home from sitting through three hours of a professional development workshop which entailed watching excerpts from”Waiting for Superman”. We also watched a segment of Oprah w/ guest Bill Gates & Guggenheim.
I am in a unique position … I work at a Charter School for all male African Americans, I am also the daughter of a union organizer. As the excerpts of the documentary unfolded I couldn’t help but think “this is a glossy version of what a charter school really is…. and it’s down playing the importance of unions” The principal clapped and cheered throughout the Oprah segment, telling us we were the next up and coming charter school and ….the twenty something staff went along with it.
This is after we’ve worked at the very least 12 hours each day w/ a 15/20 minute lunch break. I lack of retirement benefits , have 4 sick days and 1 personal day that I will ‘earn’ after 7 months…… we work because we believe we can make a difference. However, I have, no one, (no union) protecting my professional interest. I never full realized their importance.
I thank you for your letter and taking a stand against this film. There are so so many public schools that are working. And at the same time, there are many charter schools that I KNOW are fudging their scores to get more funding.
Thank You Again!
On 9/21/10 12:37 PM, Kevin Brown wrote:
I just want to thank you and the Rethinking Schools team for your efforts to combat the powerful forces attempting to destroy public education for the sake of personal profit. I am currently employed as a policy consultant at the California School Boards Association - one of the mainstream forces doing very little to reshape or repair public education. ( I am leaving soon)
In my own way, from the inside, I have attempted to push policy makers in a more progressive direction with little success. More than 10 years ago, I worked for Mr. Kevin Johnson (Michelle Rhee’s fiancé) before he joined the same corrupt forces that seek to dismantle public education as we know it. It has been discouraging to witness the manipulation of the poor and those in our urban centers. However, the Rethinking Schools web site and publications have kept me encouraged enough to keep battling. Your site is important, and I thank God for the work that you do. Your fighting has kept me believing that change will come.
Kevin L. Brown
On 9/21/10 2:09 PM, Monica Teixeira de Sousa wrote:
Thank you for taking up this very important issue. I’m a law professor in Boston and I’ve written extensively (critically) about President Obama’s Race to the Top. I would like to be involved in this campaign.
I’m also examining the impact that these education policies might have on the political viability of public sector labor in this country. I spoke out against the termination of the teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island, earlier this year and I’ve attached a link to an editorial that I wrote and that was published in the Providence Journal at the time of the firings. It provides you with an idea of my views on a few of these issues.
I hope to hear back from you and would like to help in any way possible.
Monica Teixeira de Sousa
New England Law | Boston
On 9/23/10 9:49 PM, Jerry Weiner wrote:
Public school teachers have a difficult job to perform. They should be praised as opposed to criticized for their efforts to try to educate students who too often lack the necessary respect, motivation, family support and understanding about how important an education really is for their future success. Other constituencies including too many parents, politicians and the media refuse to recognize their own responsibilities in regards to properly supporting classroom teachers.
Jerry Weiner, Ph.D
Middle and Secondary education Department
College of Education
On 9/24/10 8:54 AM, Grace Lee wrote:
I know personally as a public school teacher I work all the time, teaching, school duties, advising school club and then I do my lesson planning and grading at home at night often late into the night. We do not have easy job. But we teachers all do it because we love our kids!
In all this national media attention, they don’t talk much about curriculum, they don’t have teachers and students in the dialogue, and they haven’t a clue about what it means to educate a human being. Rhee says “terminated” like she’s killing ants, Duncan believes testing is teaching, and Oprah owns her own school. Some beginning teachers need to know that the union is about more than seniority and tenure issues. The mythology around tenure needs to be debunked. I guess when you teach scripted curriculum you don’t think about censorship issues.
Watching the MSNBC coverage of the teacher summit made me sick. I don’t need some singer’s views on how we should reform our schools. Education is such a complicated issue and unless you really know what you are talking about I don’t think you should have center stage at an Education Summit! My first job was at a charter school where I was harassed by my principal and was forced to read a scripted curriculum that the poor students in my class did not understand. I was NOT ALLOWED to teach SCIENCE or SOCIAL STUDIES. I still feel bad I didn’t try to shut that school down and instead just quit. Tying pay to kids test results has been studied and doesn’t work!!! My union protects me AND the children I work with. I think the message of this movie is dangerous and ultimately horrible for real school reform.
How easy it is to blame (and fire) public school teachers for the failure of America’s urban schools … much easier than trying to fix poverty, unemployment, and the crumbling infrastructure of the urban school system. The language of blame is helping no one … we need to work together to support our children.
When will anybody tell the truth? How can you pretend to discuss education..w/out mentioning factors such as neglect, abuse, poverty, learning disabilities, administrative apathy, and lack of parental support. Why are police officers not fired, when the crime rate goes up? Why are doctors not scolded when ppl still die of disease? The reason is simple…these are complex issues and we are pretending that they can be solved by teachers. That may be the stupidest, most ill informed idea ever sold to the american public. If we had that much power, than why are all these reformers choosing to get rich off “reform” rather than rolling up their sleeves and teaching?
Public education…democratic institution or capitalist enterprise? I don’t think we can have both if it means the wealthy dictate how children are to be educated…30 years into teaching, I feel the need to protect the children from the system more than ever.
Gwyneth Brain Harner
So glad to see this site. Ever since the movie came out I’ve been thinking about how schools have become the scapegoat for all that’s wrong in our society, and bashing the schools has become the politically acceptable thing to do. It diverts our attention from our failing families, and economic system. A culture that touts “No Child Left Behind” and then leaves millions of families behind, is the real culprit!
I’m attending a screening of “Waiting for Superman” next week, and I’m doing some research first. It appears that the movie shows a family trying to escape Stevenson Middle School in LAUSD in favor of KIPP Los Angeles Prep. I looked up some statistics. FYI: The Stevenson MS class of ‘09 started in 6th grade with 869 students and shrank to 816, a loss of 6.1%. The KIPP LA Prep class of ‘09 had 119 students in grade 6 (06–07 school year) and shrank to 52, a loss of 56.4%. I’m just sayin’…
I am the president of a local teachers’ union representing over 1,300 teachers. Stating that I am a teachers’ union president will cause some people to activate inaccurate and unflattering ideas about my ability to teach. To set the record straight, in two very different districts I have been named District Teacher of the Year. Now I have the opportunity to visit classrooms throughout the district in my current position and see amazing accomplishments of students and teachers.
The union is not an impediment to student success. We are a professional partner with the district to create and sustain innovative programs that are reaching students in measureable and meaningful ways. Instead of trying to identify a problem and an enemy to fit a preconceived “solution”, the filmmaker and proponents of failed concepts such as charter schools should examine their own motives and then determine whether they are truly interested in public education.
If the money, effort, and attention that is being put into the charter school movement were directed at our existing public schools, THAT would truly make a difference. President Obama has given up on public schools and I feel incredibly betrayed. If only our elected officials had to send their kids to public school…the system would be fixed in three years, maybe less. The disconnect between the people who make policy (and donate big bucks to the charter school movement) and those who are the heart and soul of public schools is a big part of the problem.
Jamie Stahl Bowsher
My profession is under attack by people who have no idea what we teachers are dealing with day to day. You cannot run schools like a business. Children are not a product. They are developing humans with a variety of abilities and learning styles. They come to us from many socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, experiences. There is not a cookie cutter method that works for every child. I miss the days when I actually taught my students to think, imagine, and create, rather than how to pass a test that was designed by people who have no idea how children learn!