It’s Christmas Eve, and like many children across the globe who celebrate the holiday, my kids are excited that their long wait is coming to an end. My son and daughter are still young, almost seven and three respectively, and it’s easy to allow the perception of magic that fills their hearts to enter my soul this time of year. While it’s hard not to get caught up in the contemporary culture of all things materials, I’d like to pause for a moment of reflection at this day’s winding down to give thanks for all the non-material fortunes in my life, namely that my children are happy and healthy, and that we as a family are bound by love, and thriving from love’s energy.
While I give thanks for all that I have, I also acknowledge the incredible disparity in the world between those who have everything and those who have virtually nothing. Luckily I fall in the middle and am humbled. If you are like my family and your children wake up tomorrow filled with Christmas excitement, think of those who are less fortunate. We must, as a society, be willing and able to do something about poverty, and the generational disadvantages that affect many demographics.
But this isn’t a post about Christmas. Christmas is merely a perfect opportunity to reiterate the damage being stricken on our schools and the children who walk down their halls by the corporate elite who wish to profit from a privatization scheme that has been pushing Common Core standards, scripted curriculum, worksheet curriculum, test preparation materials, and of course, the litany of standardized tests themselves. School reform entities have weaseled their way into prominence because somehow they convinced us of the myth that our schools were failing and our teachers were incompetent. This is not true.
Our schools have become the target of reform because of poor performance on standardized tests, and we’ve been told that we are falling behind our international counterparts. This is also false. The reformers would have you believe their lies by leaving out important information. Poverty. Child poverty in the United States is staggering, according to a Washington Post article, with one in three children living in poverty in this country. Compare that to countries like Finland who traditionally score higher on international tests and one can see that their child poverty rate is much lower. When looking at test scores within the United States, it is clear that schools within economically advantaged communities score much higher than those within communities with high levels of poverty.
The fact is that our schools and our children are being shortchanged based on a myth. In most cases, our schools are thriving. Those that are not are generally located in communities without the financial resources to compete with affluent districts. Ironically, it is these “failing” districts who are punished the most, given less funding, restructuring, teacher firings, and even school closure. The real problem is not school failure. It is not teacher incompetence. And it is not a lack of “rigor” or high standards. The issue is poverty and disparity, and until policy makers are willing to face this societal dilemma head-on, our schools and children will still suffer the cyclical illusion of failure because of something entirely out of their control.
What can one do about this as an individual? You can speak out. Speak truth to power. Every voice that dispels the myths is a voice of reason tipping the tides to policies and social programs that tackle the real problems and not the illusions. If you are able to speak out, you must. When it comes to education, you can give the greatest gift of all: Opt Out. Fight back against the myth based on test scores. Remove the data that corroborates the lies. Opt your child out of standardized testing and say no to the corporate takeover of our PUBLIC education system.
This Christmas season, as you contemplate all that you are thankful for, put test refusal on that list. You are your child’s best advocate, and opting out is a gift that every parent can give. It doesn’t cost anything and the rewards are infinite. Merry Christmas! And let’s wish for a New Year where the culture of testing is denied and our children and teachers can go back to real learning.