Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's Time to Break the Rules

I have to be honest. I have never been good at following any rules that harm children or harm anyone in the public schools -  throughout my entire profession as a teacher. As I stand in the midst of my 18th year of teaching, I am amazed by the aggressive force with which the gauntlet is being thrown down across the nation as a threat or challenge to any students, teachers, or parents,who dare not to follow these "rules" or laws, that we know are unjust. We must administer these high stakes tests, force feed them to children, and the children must like them, and persevere with grit and rigor - for the good of our nation.

I am also fascinated by those who believe that a teacher's refusal to administer harmful high stakes tests is an act of insubordination, and THEREFORE (they believe), these teachers deserve to face the consequences and be punished.  Somehow, I have this image of folks throwing rocks at these teachers as the teachers stand in the middle of the circle - folks mocking them and jeering at them - casting stones with glee.

I can't erase that image from my mind for some reason.  Having been in the presence of folks who are such strong "rule followers" - that they would indeed cast the first stone if we lived in another time in history, or perhaps another place; is truly, an eerie, chilling experience.  

I, personally, can't imagine shaking my finger at ANY parent, teacher, or student who wishes to participate in an act of civil disobedience that indeed breaks some rules as a necessity - IN ORDER to protect children and do what is just and right in the name of humanity and in the name of a democracy that has lost its way.

When I think about this as a reality - I really question, what has become of our society? Our democracy?

If we are truly in such a space, a space in which adherence to horrible, cruel, life-destroying rules trumps doing what is right for our children, what indeed, is to become of us?

I'm not sure.

There are folks out there who believe we should simply wait for policies to change - and that we should work patiently with these policy makers.  Okay...I'll do that, while I scrape the paint off the walls in my living room using my finger nails - heck, we've got NOTHING but time, right?

And as PARCC, SBAC, and the other common core tests rear their ugly heads in 2015?  Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.

There are folks out there who are happy to accept the smidgen of cake that will be offered to all of us this year as policies are tweaked in order to appease those who are not "rule followers."

There are also folks out there who are happy to watch the entire public school system come crumbling down as they set their sights on careers, profit and status in the near future.

Finally, many out there are quietly moving forward, not mentioning the fact that the "less tests, better tests, common core stays" mantra is permeating every policy across the nation in order to keep the data mining in place and keep the cash flowing as they privatize public schools. (They don't mind moving at a bit slower pace...the end goal is the same for them.)

Few, if any, are mentioning poverty.

When I do mention poverty, I find that I receive one of the following reactions:

Kudos to you Peg for mentioning poverty (almost like they punched me in the shoulder to show their approval) followed by.....moving on to the next action item.  In one ear...out the other..

Or - they get angry with me. How dare I use poverty as an excuse for children? These children are every bit as capable as children in high income areas!!! That's right - they can do it...on an empty stomach, living in a car, without books, healthcare - they will pull themselves up by their bootstraps and carry on! How dare you presume otherwise, Peg? 

Or, finally, first they do this *yawn* *brief eye roll, stare at ceiling, then look at clock as though in a terrible hurry *  - and then they say,  yep...nobody's gonna change any policies that create equitable funding and erase childhood poverty this year - what else ya got, Peg? Give us something we can DO something with -  sheesh (as they think...omg would this Pollyana shut up already....)

The most beneficial response I have received from a fellow activist is this (after I bombarded her with questions about why folks ignore poverty - minus of course the obvious ones...  .01% stays in power and we become serfs).  The truth is this, most simply can't fathom what it is like to live in poverty. Therefore, when you describe scenarios to them, it simply doesn't sink into their soul, their toes, and it sure as hell doesn't light a fire under their asses, requiring them to do something to create change.

And sadly, we live in a country grounded in consumerism; a country where folks will stand in line - in the cold - over night - in order to be the first to get the new iPhone. 

We don't need gold stars for mentioning poverty. We need action to protect children from poverty. We need the masses to wake up and defy the slow conditioning that has been used to pull the wool over everyone's eyes, as they have stripped us of our ability to think, make decisions, and act.

And I wonder, how far is "rule following" going to get us this year? 

As we follow the rules to introduce bills in the legislature, as we follow the rules and dutifully give tests which are not proven to be reliable or valid, all within a high stakes testing environment, just how far will this "rule following" get us?

Not far.  

That is why, this is the year for nonviolent civil disobedience, in the name of children everywhere.

This is the year we must stand tall and refuse to allow the policy makers to believe that they have indeed appeased us - just enough - in order for them to continue to move forward with their corporate ed. reform agenda, simply using new strategies and a bit of a longer timeline.  

(Seriously read the Zimba piece in NPR if you want to see their newest strategy...Zimba is JUST as frustrated as we are by the rollout of common core..he's so frustrated that he has no choice but to create CC curriculum for our schools! I mean..sheesh....he's just a guy trying to help his daughter with math on Saturday mornings!)

The arrogance is forever astounding. We are surrounded by it at all levels of this game.

It is time to break the rules. 

Nonviolent civil disobedience is necessary if we hope to save public schools and if we hope to halt the harm that is currently occurring to our children across the nation, as they are required to take high stakes tests which harm students, teachers, schools and communities.  

Parents must refuse high stakes tests in mass.  Teachers who are able, must refuse to administer the tests. Student activists must educate other students and share with them the knowledge necessary to determine if they indeed #choosetorefuse. Citizens everywhere must stand up and help our communities fight back.

For those rule followers who stand ready to cast the first stone in the form of firing teachers, bullying children who come to school with opt out/refusal letters, and more - drop your stone in this crumbling democracy and stand with us  - as we fight back. And as we win.  


  1. Bravo, Peg! I wholeheartedly agree. We must stand up to the heartless corporate ed reform juggernaut, for the sake of our children, our teachers, our public education system, and our democracy. Sanity and humanity must prevail over mindless greed and arrogance, heedless of Others' suffering and detriment.

  2. This blog was very aggressive!!! I love it!

  3. As lawmakers make new laws to replace old laws, corporate interest groups write the laws and "donate" to the lawmakers who pass those laws.
    We used to call this corruption and jailed the guilty parties.
    Nonviolent disobedience is necessary to overthrow bad laws. Opting out of high stakes testing saves our children as it teaches children and adults the meaning of personal integrity.
    Among your many superb blogs, this stands out as a call-to-action gem.