I spoke last week to the annual convention of the Association for Career and Technical Education in Nashville. It was a great audience, and I loved meeting so many educators who are devoting their lives to preparing young people for life after school.
The night before the CTE convention, I spoke to local activists for public education in Nashville. It was an exciting time. The state commissioner Kevin Huffman had resigned only days before. Memphis parents are in an uproar over the steady expansion of the charter sector and the loss of their public schools. Meanwhile, Nashville’s superintendent has a plan to introduce more charters, whether parents want them or not.
Here is an account of the evening and the situation by Lucianna Sanson, a BAT in Tennessee:
This week, Nashville was honored when Diane Ravitch spoke at an event hosted by a group of local grassroots education activists: TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence), Momma Bears (a blog run by some fierce parent activists), and the TnBATs (BadAss Teachers Association) at Vanderbilt University at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. Diane was in town to speak at a CTE conference, but she graciously spent her night speaking with, and to, a room full of approximately 400 teachers, parents, administrators, students, reporters, and concerned citizens.
Diane spoke at length about education reform and the venture capitalist agenda that is behind the movement. In the interest of selling this agenda, which includes privatizing public education, education reformers are fond of calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Ironically, they cast themselves in the mold of great civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders. Diane Ravitch pointed out the hypocrisy of this by stating that rather than uplifting African Americans and other People of Color through community schools with wrap-around services, the Reformers promote Charters and Vouchers, which re-segregates schools rather than bringing, or keeping, diverse communities together.
Dr. Ravitch spoke about Charter schools, an issue that is particularly troubling for Tennessee because Memphis City/Shelby County has been taken over by the Achievement School District, or ASD, which is modeled after the Recovery School District, or RSD, in New Orleans. This is very troubling because New Orleans only has five public schools remaining in the city. The communities of New Orleans no longer have any ownership or say-so about their own schools. Memphis residents are aware that their schools are being taken over, not to help their students and communities, but to make corporations richer. Residents are fighting back and speaking out against Charter school takeovers.
Teachers, parents, and other invested stakeholders are attending neighborhood meetings, holding signs, and speaking to the ASD, local boards, and local leaders. They are asking for their schools to be funded, not sold to the highest bidder. While Memphis is in the eye of the storm, the ASD has reached out to Nashville and is now attempting to take over schools there. The citizens of Nashville are resisting as well, and part of that resistance has taken the form of grassroots organizations holding ed reform awareness workshops, talking with lawmakers, speaking out at BOE meetings, blogging about the truth of ed reform, and working with the local state teacher’s association to raise awareness regarding these issues.
Diane encouraged Tennesseans to continue to work together in solidarity to fight ed reform. She encouraged us, as teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and citizens, to be pro-active in speaking up and speaking out. As a teacher, and a parent, a citizen, and a local education activist, I am encouraged by her words, emboldened by them, and inspired by them. I, as well as many others in Tennessee, have become an outspoken advocate for our public schools. In that spirit, I have included the short speech I gave from the TREE, BEARs, and BATs event. It is a call to action, a call to work in solidarity, and a call for all local activists to stay strong, stay focused, and continue to work together. As Diane reminded us, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Lucianna’s Call to Action Speech
Hello Everyone and Good Evening. My name is Lucianna Sanson and I am a public high school teacher in Franklin County TN. As many of you may recall, two years ago, Kevin Huffman and the State Board of Education began talking about tying our teaching license to test scores. When I heard that- it was thestraw that broke the Came’l back for me.
I decided that I had had enough. Ironically, that same week, or perhaps even that same day, I found a grassroots association of fellow teachers on FB called the BadAss Teachers Association. Well, I knew that I was a BadAss and I realized that I had found a group of people as dedicated and fed up with ed reform as I was. Soon after finding the National group, I connected with the local TN state group and became an active participant and volunteer for the group. I added my teacher voice to the others that were speaking up for public education in my state. The following words are a call to action to you, fellow teachers, parents, and citizens. Join with me and speak up about ed reform. Together we can make a difference and be heard.
We must stand up and be strong-
We must stand up and speak truth-
We must stand up,
and use our teacher voices to protect our children and our profession.
We must stand tall and proud, like the TREE,
We must be fierce and protective of our children, like the Momma Bear,
We must be brave and bold like the Bat, swooping down on those that threaten our public schools, our profession, and our students.
We must protect our children and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- a happiness that can not be found in Tennessee- unless we are free to learn, free to prosper, and free to work together without the yoke of national or corporate education reform inflicted upon us. If we can’t work together to educate our children, how can we work together to make a great nation?
We must protect our freedom.
We must protect our children.
We must protect them at all costs.
Our public schools are the last strongholds of our democracy.
Endless bubble tests do not train our students to be citizens in a democracy.
Endless bubble tests do not promote critical thinking and creativity!
We must be fearless warriors for truth.
We must speak truth to power.
We must be, in the infamous words of Dr. Mark Naison, the founder of the National BadAss teachers Association,
We must be BadAss!
Tennesseans, please join TREE, Momma BEARs, and TNBATs in the fight to save our schools. Our students deserve our support. Our children deserve our support. If we don’t stand up for our children no one else will.
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