Underneath all of the coverage of the debt crisis was another important event that really needs some attention: the Save Our Schools rally in Washington DC over the weekend. Stakeholders in public education got to listen to and rally around some educational heavy-hitters – Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol and others whose writings and voices I admire. They have the fortitude to call public education – or what passes for it – on the carpet and not worry about jumping in to the fray.
One speechmaker that surprised me – not because I didn’t think he was thoughtful enough for it – was Matt Damon. That’s right. Matt Damon the actor, writer and pride of Boston (Cambridge really, but we won’t worry about ZIP codes here).
How proud his mom, Lesley College educator, Nancy Carlson-Paige must have felt to hear Matt talk so poignantly about the impact teachers made on his life. Teachers who did not have to worry about whether or not the single-shot, high stakes test scores that we live with now would measure whether or not they were effective educators of children. They provided students with opportunities to express themselves creatively, to learn about the world, and to learn to love learning. Can we say the same happens now?
Maybe it was the turning of the calendar to August when thoughts turn to preparing for the upcoming school year, but I personally really needed to hear these words:
So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.
So if you live with, know, appreciate or support a public educator or someone working in public education, speak up. We need to know that once in a while, we get it right.
To read Matt Damon’s speech in its entirety, here’s a link.