A reader who is active in the SOS (Save Our Schools) movement wrote:

Dr. Ravitch: Ever since I became involved with the planning of the first SOS March (back in May of 2010), I have treasured your historic perspective on testing and your insight on education reform. You have shown the unique ability to see both the forest and the trees. I wish that more people had your ability to understand how seemingly isolated actions and policies are part of a bigger picture– one driven by the corporate profit and the desire to privatize public education.

Based largely on the information gained from people such as you, I became an activist and have fought hard on both the front lines and behind the scenes against such destructive actions. What I saw scared me and, at the same time, hurt. I truly believe in the importance and power of quality public education.

Nothing, however, hurts worse than seeing the youngest members of your own family hurt by such so-called ed reform.

My grandson, age seven, is a very active, imaginative, and smart boy. When he was five, he was discussing how critical thinking skills could be applied to inventing new playground equipment and finding new uses for that which already existed.

At age six, he decided that he wanted to run for President when he was old enough. He created a campaign poster, a platform to run on, and a children’s action group which focused on improving access to water in Africa and gathering food and clothing for children who had none. His theory was that he needed to practice with small jobs before he took on the world. When visiting one weekend, he decided to practice his Presidential skills by directing the activities of his stuffed animal collection. He assessed his animals by their apparent capabilities, set up skill training centers to teach them how to work better, and set up hospitals to repair those animals with tears and other defects that limited their abilities. You should have seen my messy house!

Now the bad news.

He currently attends an elementary school in a very rural county that prides itself on its school rating. When he entered first grade, they were an “A School.” Honestly, rather than seeing this as a plus, it made me uneasy.

At the end-of-the year student awards ceremony, the only subjects that the principal mentioned were math and reading. He announced that the school had the highest FCAT score for 3rd graders in our state. I noticed, however, that very few students made the all-subject honor role (all As and Bs). After speaking with teachers, it became apparent that all emphasis was on math and reading and, as a result, enthusiasm and achievement in other subjects suffered. Luckily, his own teacher rebelled and actually read the class Isaac Asimov. My grandson now loves science fiction and believes science is important.

This school philosophy, however, is seriously hurting him now. His current teacher has announced that his entire class will not have recess until their AR (Accelerated Reading) scores improve. It turns out that their school declined to a B school, and current scores indicate that they are not improving. Mind you, they have only been in school for 6 weeks.

Imagine how an active, imaginative, and very verbal 7 year old boy will function during a school day that does not include an outlet for him to express himself or learn to socialize with others in an unstructured environment.

As an only child, socialization and the ability to physically play with others is of critical importance. Without such, I do not see how he will be able to fully grow, let alone function in such a restrictive environment for hours on end.

This breaks my heart. I have spend most of my free time for the past 2 1/2 years working with various education advocacy activities. I have helped to coordinate a national rally, marched on DC and our state capitol, lead seminar sessions, and even met with Arne Duncan… I have felt America’s pain and fear and knew something had to be done. But when it affects someone close to you, the pain and fear grows to an intensity that is overwhelming.

Dr. Ravitch. I want to thank you for opening my eyes to what has been happening to public education and for devoting so much of your life to our mutual cause. Now, however, I selfishly ask one thing of you. Please, under any circumstances, do not give up. Do not let up. Do not stop.