Wednesday, May 21, 2008

When students organize to protest

I gotta admit, I am proud of the kids in the Bronx who refused to that the practice in social studies the other day. For those of you who don't know, a group of 8th graders in the Bronx refused to take an social studies practice exam. Along with the blank test forms they returned to the proctors, they included petitions signed by students. Among the statements on the petitions were critiques about too much testing, practice tests that had nothing to do with their grades, and testing instead of teaching. You can read about it here.

This is so exciting. Talk about students learning what it means to organize and protest. They are living and engaging in democracy. The downside is that students are going to be punished (banning them from graduation is being mentioned as a penalty) and the social studies teacher who, from all accounts, told the kids the protest might backfire (even though he supported their budding critical thinking skills), has been yanked from the classroom. Apparently engaging kids in reading history, engaging in critical thinking, and asking questions is not welcome in this school.

The sad thing is that this is going to be a teachable moment that will inevitably be lost. Instead of opening up the discussion with students to come to a compromise, the students are going to be punished for finding and using their collective voice (they defined those in power), and the teacher who nurtured them will most likely lose his job because he, too, failed to know and stay in his place.


Linda said...

If I had 2-3 wishes…. this story would spread like wildfire among two
(1) the supposedly strong teachers' unions [local, state, and national levels] and the NEA would rise up as a whole and say NO MORE to NCLB and the whole testing industry,


(2) among students through text messages, emails, facebook and word-o-mouth and the students would rise up as a whole and say NO MORE to NCLB and the whole testing industry … and

(3) once emboldened by their successful boycott the students would further boycott any military presence in their schools and would refuse to allow the predatory recruiters to harvest any more of their fellow students for their corporate protection racket.

shhhh….. spread the word… make it happen
here’s the link to the article.
Pass it around to any teachers or students - with the wishes.

As they say in the IEP world…. what’s the baseline? Currently [5/26/08],
google news shows this story is on 2 news
sites [Huffington Post & New York Daily News] and 311 blogs.

Downside? It is the very end of the school year. Of course, considering how email jokes and virus warnings work, there may be benefit to doing it now, again before school starts AND later, a couple months into the school year.

ready… set … go

[and copy save and calendar it for a future date]

StangCobra said...

The best quote from the article has to be: "They're saying Mr. Avella made us do this," said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. "They don't think we have brains of our own, like we're robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests."

This could have been the perfect opportunity for the students, teachers, and administration to engage in a dialogue and discuss what works in the classroom and what does not.

Speaking of a teachable moment, it reminds me of another article where students had their lunch period cut by about 15 or 20 minutes. The students protested by paying for lunch in pennies and as a result, the students were punished with detention. In both instances, it was a nonviolent protest - students were trying to make a point in a civilized manner. What kind of message is the administration sending to the students? Sit in class and act like automatons?
Everyone preaches that they want students to think for themselves and think critically, but when they actually do, they get reprimanded.

Interesting article to say the least.