At the Manhattan forum convened by State Commissioner John King and the chair of the Regents Merryl Tisch, a mother gave this moving speech, which she sent with permission to post.
“Commissioner King, Chancellor Tisch, thank you for the opportunity to share with you tonight. My name is Lorri Gumanow, and my husband and I are the proud parents of a very talented 13-year old public school student who is an actor and puppeteer, and wants to work with the Jim Henson Company someday. I am a newly retired special educator. But tonight I am here to ask you to walk in my shoes as a parent.
Our son was born 3 months premature and has several neurological disabilities and an IEP. His disabilities are not the result of poverty, poor prenatal care or poor educational opportunities. He has always thrived in the public school environment. He has had wonderful teachers, wonderful inclusive public schools, and wonderful supports.
All of a sudden he is failing. He failed the math test last year with a score of 1. What happened? The roll out of the Common Core asks 8th graders to now magically perform as 10th graders, without any attention to the skills and knowledge they might have been required to learn and practice in those 2 missing years.
Your solution is that my son just needs to try harder. Increase the rigor! No excuses! And what do you really mean every time you say, “This work?” He does 4 hours of homework every night and still fails his classroom test! If you don’t pass, you are a failure, and your teacher is a failure too. Fire that bad teacher! Close that failing school! Failure is not an option. Raise the bar. Unfortunately, when you throw some kids into the “deep end of the pool,” with a brick tied to their ankle – label the brick whatever difference you prefer – it is foolish to believe they are all going to be able to come back up for air. A lot of them are going down! I am tired of the jargon and the rhetoric. You are willing to write my son off as collateral damage. I care about my child! I care about all children! And so do his teachers! Education is not a competition – it is a human right and our responsibility!
My son now says he is stupid, he can’t take it anymore, my teacher will get fired if I fail, why can’t I be normal, he says he wants to kill himself, he has meltdowns regularly over homework – AND he has pulled the kitchen knife out of the drawer. He has always received outstanding medical care and mental health care! Now I have to give him, in addition to his daily medications, a sedative when he loses control – over homework and schoolwork????? I sedate my kid with strong drugs so he doesn’t hurt himself over an ELA quiz??? Something is very wrong with this picture. School should not be a life or death experience. School is not worth dying for!
And as a parent, would you want this medical history about your child on inBloom, for the world to see? (By the way, our son has given me permission to share this with you!) Are we overprotective parents, protecting him from rejection and failure? Absolutely not – he is an actor. He knows that when he experiences rejection after an audition, he picks himself up, works hard and tries again. But it’s demeaning to try again when you know you don’t have the skills. Experiencing failure is an important lesson in life. But being punished for something out of your control is abuse, and it is discriminatory.
My son is a proud member of the Drama Desk award-winning TADA! Resident youth theater ensemble, and just earned a leading role in their upcoming off-Broadway musical production. Talent exists in many forms, academic talent being just one form. The arts are what save my son’s life! He will reach his dream through hard work, perseverance, and dedication to his craft. Those are qualities that employers value! Your testing and sorting of children, and treating them as human capital will not bring our children down, because we won’t let you. We love and support our children, and embrace all of their special talents! We are active, concerned, informed and intelligent parents and we won’t let you hurt our children. Pull out of inBloom. Fire Pearson now! Drop the Common Core! All children, not just the children of Ivy-league educated and wealthy parents, are entitled to a good education in our democracy. Not just the kids in private schools and charter schools. ALL children!! I hope you were listening. Oh, and by the way. I graduated from an Ivy-league college too and I believe in our public schools! Thank you!”