Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Please consider signing! Obama Appointment for Sec. of Ed.

I admit it, I have a lot of issues with No Child Left Behind, the current incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In the past 6 years, testing has become the only focus of public education, with student success in learning being reduced to nothing more than a test score. "Proven teaching methods" have become little more than test prep, skill and drill, and a list of strategies that have little to do with how children really learn.

On top of that, the sanctions for failing schools ultimately put public school monies into the hands of private tutoring groups, charter schools, and private school hands. While there is much improvement needed in public education, the solution should not be to end public education.

Today I received two alerts from colleagues about the short list of people Obama is looking at. One of them is Commissioner Joel Klein of NYC and the other is Chicago CEO Arne Duncan. Both have records of being anti-teacher, anti-union, and anti-democratic. While I understand the Department of Education needs a forward-looking steward, I am not sure installing a leader who wants to further undermine public education should be our only choice.

Please consider reading and signing the two petitions below.


The Petition to oppose the appointment of Joel Klein.

We, the undersigned, devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to the election of Barack Obama as President. As Professional educators we were encouraged by the promise to have an open and respectful dialogue within the educational community about NCLB, its limits, and its failures.

Now, a trial balloon has been advanced in the media for Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration. ( It is quite possible that Klein himself promoted the trial balloon.) Trial balloons are trials. They are floated to see how people will react.

This petition is a reaction.

The administration of Joel Klein as Chancellor of Schools in New York City is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures.

Citizens, educators, and future educators, read the entire petition and sign it at:

And, the second.

Say YES to public education. Say NO to privatization.

Dear supporters of public education,
Many of you have by now heard the rumors of Obama's potential appointees to the position of Secretary of Education. This list includes several people whose records show a history of dismantling democratic public education in the name of private interests. As people committed to public education, this strikes a hard and fast blow in the euphoria that we have felt since Tuesday, November 4th. But it's not too late to make our voices heard once again. Let's build on the sense of representation and democracy we have just experienced to send a clear message to the Obama Administration.

Please visit in order to sign the following statement that voices our concerns about the kind of Education Secretary that we want. Additionally, please FORWARD this message to your friends and colleagues who are also concerned about the future of public education.

Thank you!
The National Network of Teacher Activist Groups

Statement on the selection of the U.S. Secretary of Education

Today, we celebrate Barack Obama?s momentous election as President of the United States. We recognize it as a historic culmination of the centuries-long effort for dignity and justice, human and civil rights, and enfranchisement of the U.S. people, and we pay particular tribute to the African American freedom struggle, which played a decisive role in bringing the first Black man to the presidency.

We look forward, as educators, parents and students, to participating in the opportunities for change afforded by this moment. We are excited about the possibilities for improving educational opportunities for all students. Our vision of educational justice, access, opportunity, and equity includes having a Department of Education whose officials embrace the idea of a quality education as part of the common good. We wish to turn away from a corporate model of education that claims that teaching and learning can only improve by imposing market perspectives and processes onto our public education system. Education should be a fundamental human right, not subject to privatization by firms whose primary concern is a profit motive and the bottom line. We have all witnessed the failures of this free market system in recent months and do not support this model for our public schools.

Toward these ends, we urge President-elect Obama and his transition team to choose a Secretary of Education who is committed to the full development of human beings who are prepared to actively participate in civil society. We strongly encourage the selection of someone dedicated to equity and the education of all children with a proven track record in these areas, such as Linda Darling-Hammond, a key member of Mr. Obama?s education team. We want a person who is a professional, experienced, and knowledgeable educator, not a corporate executive such as New York City?s Education Chancellor Joel Klein or Chicago CEO Arne Duncan, who have demonstrated their vision of privatized, corporatized, and anti-democratic schools.

Over the last 20 years in the U.S., education is becoming the business of education, and we emphatically reject that model. We call upon the President-elect to choose someone who will embrace the ideas of civic involvement and public participation. We look forward to collaborating with that person, as well as with students, parents, and the broader public, in developing a truly meaningful and just education for all students in the U.S.

Endorse this statement by visiting

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I voted today

Truth be told, I think that voting is the smallest thing that we do that is part of participating in democracy. The reality is that elections happen on the first Tuesday in November, in some cases in April or June. But, it's an isolated act. To me there are far more important things that we do as citizens. Being a democratic citizen doesn't just happen a few times a year, or when there is a Presidential election. It happens every day, in very small but significant ways.

We pick up trash, help neighbors clean up their yard after a big storm, take care of each other, and hold each other accountable for the well-being of the community. We dig deeper to understand the bigger issues that are out there and work with others to solve the roots of problems, not just put Band-Aids on them.

I have to admit, though, this election is exciting in a very different way. Regardless of who one votes for, taking part in the election has taken on a life of its own. In some cases the days leading up to the election have brought out the best and worst in us. But what really got me was the number of people who were at my polling place this morning.

I vote at a school that is up the hill from me. In the last six years when I have gone to vote, there are usually more poll workers and observers than there are voters. This morning there was a short line. I went at 10 AM, and there were two people in front of me who I don't think had ever voted before. When I asked one of the poll workers how the morning was, she said it was really, really busy. As she leafed through the signature book, I saw many signatures... so many signatures. Usually, I vote at the end of the day after work, but I was afraid I would have to wait in a long line and I had some things at home that were almost as important as voting (It's Mr. Edubabbler's birthday. When I asked him what her wanted, he said, "chocolate cake and for [his candidate] to win the election." I told him I could take care of the first, but the second was beyond my control). At 10AM, it looked like more people had voted than there were the last time that I voted in the evening. Amazing.

But what really struck me were the people walking TO the polls. When I left, I was struck about the number of people who were walking and driving to the school (it's more or less on a dead end-- it's a pretty easy guess which way people are going). On the one hand were the many older individuals... long standing members of the community. Most of them were white (the town where I live used to be Italian, Polish, and Dutch, depending on which part of the city you were in), and came in by themselves or with a companion (in some cases, they brought THEIR parents with them). In contrast were the young families, many of whom have moved out from New York City in the last few years. Predominantly Latino, African American, and of Middle Eastern descent, they have revitalized the neighborhood in which I live. Many had their kids with them, and it was such an interesting contrast. But they all had to things in common. They held their heads high as they walked and they voted.