Diane Ravitch's Blog: A Mother Writes to the New York Board of Regents
This comment was posted and signed by a mother of a ten-year-old child who doesn’t want to go to school. Ever.
This is the message I recently sent to the Board of Regents and my state representatives: I have been very vocal about my concerns regarding the implementation of the Common Core Standards, testing, and curriculum in NYS. I have written letters and emails to my NYS representatives and made phone calls. I organized a rally which drew over 2000 people to Comsewogue High School to remind everyone that our students are not defined by their state test scores. I’ve been involved and aware. I joined with other concerned community members to create the group Students, Not Scores.
Tonight this fight became very, very personal.
My ten year old daughter asked me what it would take for me to let her stay home from school forever.
Forever. Not tomorrow… not this week. Forever.
Isabella is very well spoken; very bright. She describes herself as a feminist, and loves to debate adults about the inequity of womens’ pay for equal work. She is committed to calling out bullies in school and helping those people she sees that need a little boost. She can carry on conversations about interesting points and people in American history most kids have never heard of. She can tell you all about the Women’s Suffrage Movement. However, Bella doesn’t learn some things as quickly as other kids do. She struggles with reading at grade level, and has difficulty memorizing math facts. Math word problems are confusing to her, and take her longer than her peers. She has to work really hard to be successful academically. And she does work very hard.
But tonight Isabella decided she has had enough. “School is too hard now.” She said. “I’m too stupid to do this math.” I can assure you we do not use the word ‘stupid’ in our home to describe anything, especially not people. But in the one hour conversation we had in which she was begging me to let her quit school, Isabella used that word- stupid- to describe how she felt about herself more than 10 times.
So, now I have had enough.
No matter the intent, good or bad, in creating and implementing these Common Core standards… if they are hurting children, causing them to give up on themselves at ten years old, there is a problem no one can deny. This problem is bigger than the left wing – right wing debate over states rights and Federal overreach. This problem is bigger than corporations spending billions to influence education policy. This problem is bigger than data mining and privacy. This problem is bigger than Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Commissioner John King.
Because when a child is broken in spirit, when they have lost their self worth and confidence, that damage is not erased easily. When children hate school to the point that they attempt to avoid it at all costs, there will be no desire to be college or career ready.
Now, before you say I just want my child to succeed no matter what, and I must be one of those ‘everyone gets a trophy for participating’ parents, let me say this: I want my children to be challenged. I want them to have to work to be successful. I want them to sweat it out occasionally, and have to ask questions to clarify. I want their curiosity to lead them down paths I’ve never imagined. I want them to want to know more… about everything.
But when they have no confidence, they will not try. They will not raise their hand to ask a question. They will fear homework, quizzes and exams… and the voice they hear in their heads telling them they can’t, will create a self fulfilling prophecy… so they won’t succeed.
If these insane policies pushing developmentally inappropriate curriculum on our children are allowed to stay in place, what will the future hold for those students who do not fit in this one size fits all approach? What will happen when the precious data doesn’t show the growth these education reformers want to see because so many kids just give up? How many kids have to be hurt before we stop? How many kids have to use that word to describe themselves before we realize the damage that is being done?
Tomorrow morning I will bring Isabella to school. I will tell her that I know this is hard, but she has to just try her best. I will tell her I know how smart she is, and so does her teacher. I will kiss her head and whisper “I love you” with a smile.
And after she walks down the long school hallway, I will use very ounce of passion and compassion I have to call on my elected representatives to stop the abuse. I will contact every media outlet and offer my story- Isabella’s story. I will call, write, tweet, and email the Board of Regents and NYSED Commissioner. I will request meetings with policy makers. I will rally friends and family to do the same. I cannot, no I will not sit back and wait for someone else to get this done.
No one has the right to implement policies that are downright abusive, no matter how lofty their goals. These policies have hurt my child- and that is unacceptable. You’ve heard the phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned’…. that is nothing compared to that of a mother protecting her child.
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