Occupy The Public Schools? Will ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Trigger A Movement to Reclaim Our Schools From Test Driven Pedagogy
Dr Mark Naison
Yesterday’s Global Day of Protest was a milestone in modern history. Demonstrations in support of Occupy Wall Street took place in more than 950 cities around the world, with more than 300,000 coming out in Madrid, and 100,000 in Rome. In the US, demonstrations and marches took place in more than 240 cities. Young people in the US, watching the news, listening to the radio, or even seeing first hand what was going on in their neighborhood, or their city’s downtown business district, couldn’t help but be aware that there was a protest movement taking place that involved many people their age and that the mood of these protests was alternately defiant, festive and joyful.
But when Monday comes around, will there be any discussion of these events in our public schools? The Occupation movement would be a perfect subject for classes in History or Social Studies. It could
Involve discussion of the global economic system, the impact of the current recession on employment prospects for young people , the history of social justice movements, the role of young people in movements for social change and many other important issues. It could allow students to connect what is going on in their own lives to historical events, something which any teachers knows is a great way to get students excited about studying history.
But given the pressure put on students teachers and principals to register high scores on standardized tests, there is little chance of this happening unless these constituencies join together in a mini-revolt. The way current social studies curricula are set up in most public schools, virtually every day is devoted to some form of test prep, and since teachers and administrators job prospects are increasingly determined by results on those tests, little risk taking can be expected in opening up classes to free discussion .
Or can it? Could this be the moment that teachers say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and actually teach about something that students are interested in, and which open up avenues for students to become critical thinkers and social activists who think they have the power to make history.
We have seen hundreds of thousands of people in the US, during these past weeks, overcome their fears and apathy, to step forward and protest against an economic system that has left large portions of the nation’s population without employment, without security, without hope. They have marched, they have chanted, they have camped out in the cold and rain to make their point.
And they have prevailed in the face of police violence, and threats of eviction from the spaces they have gathered, to build a movement that grows larger every day.
Perhaps the same thing can happen in our schools. Perhaps teachers, students and parents can step forward and demand that schools make standardized tests secondary, that they set aside time for students to discuss issues of the day, that they give students outlets to express their thoughts, and over time real influence over what goes on in their schools.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has marked a new phase in US and World History. The Global Economic system is broken and those of in education must adapt to the times. This is the moment to begin transforming our schools from centers of obedience into center of critical thought and action that will allow young people to participate in the greatest change movement of the 21st Century. They have little to lose The tests that are being shoved down their throats prepare them for jobs that no longer exist. It’s time to tell them the truth, let them draw their own conclusions, and take actions they deem appropriate
Isn’t that what education is supposed to be about. To give students confidence in themselves and the power to make positive changes, not only in their own lives, but in the lives of those around them
The Revolution in our nation’s classrooms can begin Monday. It’s time to “Occupy Our Public Schools”
Teachers, students, and parents, are you ready?
October 16, 2011