Yesterday, readers of this blog had a homework assignment. I asked you to read David Berliner’s important article about education and inequality.
Today, I wish to share with you a letter that he wrote to a list of people who read the article. I am reprinting it with his permission.
I thought you might want to read it because it contains an inspiring message.
Those of us who think that the current so-called reform movement is destructive of education values can take hope: All of us, doing what we can, when we can, where we can, will make a difference.
If you want to write him, his email is online. Google him. He is at Arizona State University.
David Berliner writes:
I want to thank so many of you for your kind words. Nothing makes a writer feel better than having someone actually read what they wrote and take a moment to say they liked it! Thanks.
In the flurry of emails that I was copied on, a few readers have commented that this kind of response to the world we live in is not enough to change very much, and that is surely true. It’s just my way of helping, as inadequate as it may be. But it’s the kind of thing that if enough of us do, and circulate, and inform, might eventually lead to greater receptivity to change. It also allows us to look in the mirror in the morning and think that at least we did something!
When The Manufactured Crisis was published by me and Bruce Biddle, I received a short note of appreciation from Noam Chomsky, which I proudly hung on my wall. I wrote him back and asked how he manages to keep up his scholarly critiques in the face of enormous opposition to his views, and he kindly wrote back a short note that said something like this:
“If you do nothing, nothing will happen.
If you do something, chances are nothing will happen.
But if you do something you can at least look at yourself in the mirror.”
That’s a good personal goal, and allows for hope that more can happen.
The rebellion against high-stakes testing which is now occurring didn’t start when Paul Wellstone announced that NCLB would be a failure. The little book I wrote with Sharon Nichols, “Collateral Damage,” got very little play even though we documented early on the problems with NCLB and the fact that you cannot test your way out of the problems our schools have. But we and Wellstone and dozens of others who had little effect contributed to the arguments that Diane Ravitch got to make in a way that finally found an audience. Her powerful writing, her credentials and past history, and her personal commitment finally got the attention of a lot of people who had ignored a lot of others who said similar things. Now the rebellion against NCLB is on, the cheating we predicted and the gaming we documented based on the ubiquity of Campbell’s law is now understood to be widespread, and there is retreat from the nonsensical expectation that there will be “100% success for all by 2014, as waiver after waiver is given.
I like to think that each bit of scholarship and each letter to the editor, and each voice at a school board meeting and each sign at a protest march that doesn’t have much of an effect in itself, lays the foundation for someone to make the mark when the time is right. Each little act of scholarship and letter writing and act of protest prepares the way for the next, and the zeitgeist eventually changes.
Its the little bit of optimism I cling to in a world just made for pessimists! And by contributing a little bit to the fight for change, each of us gets to look in the mirror and feel a little less unhappy.
Cordially, and with great admiration for all you do,