A Tennessee Teacher’s Letter to President Obama
November 29, 2013
Dear Mr. President,
I generally don’t remember my dreams, and I generally don’t dream about presidents, but this time, I did both. Go figure. Anyway, in my dream, I had the opportunity to meet you and talk to you face to face. You have to understand, in my dream, I am totally excited- this is a historic moment for me- since I voted for you twice, think you are an incredibly intelligent man with excellent morals and values, a true American and I am so proud to have a Democrat in the White House!!!!!
Anyway, you shook my hand ( no limp fish- Thank GOD- I was so worried you would have the Al Gore handshake- he was an excellent professor and VP but the man really needs to work on his handshake ) and as you looked into my eyes, you gave me your genuine 100 watt full-blown smile. It even reached your eyes.
Then, as I introduced myself, as I asked you questions about the reform happening in our school systems….my dream changed. You changed, Mr. President. One minute you were all smiles and warmth then, in mid-sentence, I noticed that you were no longer smiling at me. Your eyes looked sad- so sad- and you shook your head at me and turned away from me- coldly-and you did not answer my questions.
Why were you sad, Mr. President? Because, you knew the answers to my questions, you knew that if you told me the truth, it would make me sad. You knew it would hurt me and you did not want to do that to me, Mr. President. Yet, you turned your back on me; you walked away from me, and in that moment, when you turned your back, I felt something inside me crack. I felt a fissure open up inside my heart. I felt betrayed.
“What had happened?”
“What did I say wrong?” “
“Why did my President forsake me?”
Mr. President, when you turned away from me, refused to answer me, your silence spoke louder than any words ever could. Suddenly, I knew ( you know how you just have that gut feeling? ) that “ed reform” was a cleverly worded phrase that really meant “corporate takeover of public schools.” I knew that you wouldn’t admit to it- you knew- yet you had already set the ball in motion- you knew- yet you felt it was too late to turn back- you knew- yet you refused to listen to me- instead- you chose to listen to Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, ALEC, and you turned your back on me.
The pattern I had been had been struggling to see for months was crystal clear: standardized testing was linked to Ed Reform and NCLB and RttT!!!! It was a money-making capitalist endeavor- and people were getting RICH by testing kids!!!!! I was in shock. What greed- what sin- what a REPUBLICAN thing to do!!!!! In my mind, you turned your back on a loyal voter- you turned your back on a loyal teacher- you turned your back on U.S. PUBLIC schools- you turned your back on OUR CHILDREN, in favor of Corporate Charter Schools and Capitalism and Teach for America. The knowledge I saw in your eyes- as you turned from me- withdrawing into your shell of denial, was gut-wrenching. I felt BETRAYED.
Mr. President, I am asking you to please Face the truth, rather than Race from the truth. I suggest you read Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error and educate yourself about what Common Core and RttT are actually doing to our Public schools, teachers, and students. I genuinely believe that your heart is in the right place with Ed Reform, but sir, with all due respect, you are NOT A TEACHER. Arne DUNCAN is NOT A TEACHER.
I am a public school teacher and public school parent (from a small town in Tennessee- a RED state- where Haslam and Huffman and Rhee all play together in a game to bring the Charter School, or the Achieve School District, plan to fruition ) and I am DEEPLY CONCERNED about my schools, my students, my career, and my children’s future.
I urge you to remove Arne Duncan and replace him with someone knowledgeable about public education- someone who has taught in the schools- someone who STILL teaches- I urge you to listen to teachers- to what we are saying- to see the dissent- to hear it- to RESPECT it. I worked long and hard for my honors degree from the University of the South- I am a professional educator and I work damn hard- everyday- to ensure my students are “College and Career” ready. I am not a complainer- I am a “doer” and I am a team player.
Here are some suggestions to start putting things to rights and stop the deconstruction of our Public Schools:
1. Read Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch and make it required reading for ALL of your Department of Education Staff
2. Hire Diane Ravitch as Secretary of Education- Dump Duncan
3. Allow states to back out of Common Core, RttT, and NCLB with no repercussions- states deserve autonomy- let teachers create tests
4. Stop Pearson Publishing, Bill and Melinda Gates, Wendy Kopp, Michelle Rhee, the Koch Brothers, ALEC ( and any other major philanthropist or “donor” from turning public education into a corporate and business venture ( Charter Schools staffed by Teach for America recruits)
5. Pay your teachers what they are worth- if you want real reform- you do it by giving money to Public Schools and Teachers. Imagine if teaching was one of the HIGHEST paid PROFESSIONS instead of the lowest? Suddenly, the BEST and BRIGHTEST are in the field- and the worst and do-nothings don’t even make it in the doors of schools
6. STOP the testing madness ( it is ruining the passion for learning in our children ) accountability is one thing- TESTING TESTING TESTING makes companies rich financially but OBVIOUSLY it is NOT making our children better educated- so why are we implementing MORE OF IT with PARCC and CCSS?
7. FACE POVERTY- it is the HUGE elephant in the ROOM- let guidance counselors give counsel, NOT TESTs- Common Core is NOT a SOLUTION to POVERTY.
Sir, I do hope that this letter finds its way to you, and I hope that you read it and that you heed my words. I would very much like to meet the real YOU instead of the DREAM you— therefore, I would like to extend an invitation for you to come visit Franklin County High School in Winchester, TN. Spend some time getting to know our teachers, admins, students, and school community.
English IV teacher
AP Literature teacher
TN BATs administrator