Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dear Reformies: Please stop speaking for my children.

(Updated with quotes: 11/4/2012)
“I love teachers – effective teachers," she told a smaller group of lawmakers and educators that day. "No one has a harder job than an inner-city teacher. There is nothing more noble than working as a teacher.
But if you raise some of these issues you are labeled 'anti-teacher' or a 'union-buster.' I'm not a union buster. But teachers have a very effective organization lobbying on their behalf. I want to be effective representing the other side, our children.”
-Michelle Rhee 

"In the 21st century, public schools need the kind of innovation that private firms like Google, Twitter, and Apple exemplify (just as there's room for innovation from non-profits like CK12 or Khan Academy). For the sake of our children, it's time to open our minds, move past ideology, roll up our sleeves together, and get to work."
-Joel Klein 

To all of the Chris Arnolds, Michelle Rhees, and Joel Kleins  out there:

How many kids do you have? How many are in the public schools? How many kids have you taught? I ask because I am a teacher and am a parent with actual children in public schools and I haven't seen any evidence that the policies you endorse are helping students or helping my children. In fact, I see that the policies you support are harmful: harmful to public schools, harmful to quality education, harmful to students, harmful to my children.

I understand that you don't agree. That you probably believe in the mission of the industry you work for (though not, apparently, enough to tell anyone that you work in said industry). That's fine (though I'd love to know how many kids you have actually, verifiably, and concretely helped by touting the the policies you do). I think your beliefs are misinformed, but everyone has beliefs and, for better or worse, many of them aren't the same as mine.

I understand that you and your superiors and fellow education reform industry leaders  have a living to make. Peddle your gadgets and your software. Be an education consultant or a professional development vendor. Run your "education reform" organization. Add to the ranks of the over-sized lobbying industry. Be a PR flack. Continue the proliferation of "failing" schools, but make a tidy profit at it, too. Raise your money. Make your living. Help politicians to make a living. I could never look at myself in the mirror doing what you do, but that's just me. Everyone needs to make a living, especially writers. After all, who gives "crap" about creativity when the kiddies can't read, right?

But there is a role you seem confused about. See, you represent an ideology. You work for a company or an organization or contributors. You represent them. You don't represent kids and you certainly don't represent my kids. So stop acting as if you speak for my children. Stop ruining their education in their name. You don't know my children. You don't live in my community. You don't work or volunteer in the schools my children go to. You're not helping my children, their peers, or their teachers (not even the excellent ones). You don't know what's best for them and their education. I represent my children. I speak for them. My children speak for themselves. I know them and their teachers know them. And from what I can tell and what they experience, your ideology is all wrong for them and their education. If you have them, you can speak for your own children. If you don't, well, promote your ideology and your business in your name.

Don't you dare promote it in the name of my children or in the name of their education.

Yours truly,

Rachel Levy


  1. Rachel
    you are typical of the average unionized teacher. You think YOU know it all and we should just stand aside. WRONG! You're unionists that don't give a hoot about anything but your job and working conditions. The kids are a sideline. The teachers here in Canada think the same way and our kids are also paying the price with crappy education. They don't want to look bad so "everyone passes to the next grade" regardless of performance. That's not progress, that's a disservice to our kids. The whole lot of you make me sick!

  2. @Anonymous 2:56: Ah, except that average unionized teachers are typically part of unions. I hope you recover from your sickness soon.

  3. Well said Rachel Levy! They don't speak for my students or my own children who were educated in public schools.

    I'm not anonymous. My name is Vicky Johnston. I teach 2nd grade in Louisiana!

  4. For teachers to care about their working conditions means that teachers care about their students learning conditions - since they are one and the same. I do give a hoot about my job, I'm willing to do it for very low pay and to put in long hours for this low pay. Why? Because I really do give a damn about the children I teach. I care and my students know I am there for them and that I will fight for them. I don't get $50,000 a speech, either, like certain people who claim to be doing all this "for the children." Great post, Rachel!


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