I think the Garfield High teachers are a model for teachers across the nation.
They show that collective action works. If one person speaks up, he or she gets fired.
When an entire faculty resists, together their voice is heard around the world.
Not everyone agrees, of course. Mike Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute (where I was a trustee for many years but am no longer) strongly condemns the Garfield teachers. He thinks they are shirking their duty. He thinks they are trying to avoid being held accountable. He thinks they should not compare themselves to Martin Luther King Jr.
I disagree with Mike.
Martin Luther King taught the nation–and the Garfield teachers–about the power of collective action against injustice. He showed them that the powerless, acting in concert, have power even if they don’t have money.
Teachers know better than think tanks that testing has become obsessive and pointless. President Obama has frequently inveighed against teaching to the test. The teachers are exercising their conscience, are manifesting professional responsibility, and are supporting what they believe is right for their students.
Dr. King taught them the power of the boycott. He taught them to stand firm against what they know is wrong. He taught them to have courage regardless of the odds against them.
And lest we forget, Dr. King did not fighting for privatization of public services; he did not demand high-stakes testing for children. He demanded equality of education opportunity, not a regular application of the bell curve. Dr. King demanded an end to poverty and war. He died helping the sanitation workers of Memphis organize a union.