Friday, May 22, 2015

Striking and "Opting Out" - What Will it Take to Have Your Voice Heard?

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015 6000 Washington teachers went on strike calling attention to the lack of education funding in Seattle. As a result more than 70,000 students were out of school. Teachers strikes are illegal; although no penalties are described if they do strike.

This Spring thousands of students across the country "opted out" of Common Core aligned standardized tests as part of a national movement. Again consequences such as lower teacher and school evaluations are threatened, but have not yet occurred.

There is more unrest and backlash to national educational reform efforts than ever before. But are the voices being heard? Will it make a difference?

It is interesting that there are such threatened consequences in place for protesting. It's as if schools and those affiliated with them don't have the same rights as the rest of our population. I agree that there are "natural" consequences for going on strike (e.g., lost income, children out of school), but why are there extra consequences leveraged as threats?

It's important to weigh the consequences of speaking your mind, taking a stand, and sometimes being the voice in the wilderness. If you can identify what you may lose if you do take a stand and can live with that loss, then by all means take a stand. Each must decide for themselves.

When I was in kindergarten in 1968 in New York, 60,000 teachers went on strike. This was the largest strike in history and it was particularly disruptive because they were staggered in intervals of several days and weeks between September and November. In total, a fifth of the school year’s instructional time was lost, and nearly 1 million children were affected. I was one of them. We started out the school year on strike, and then I got the chicken pox and lost 2 more weeks. I don't remember being in kindergarten, but I remember the stories of why I don't.

The 1968 teachers' strike was about "community control" or "local control." It appears that we are once again at this juncture. I applaud all those teachers who strike and all of the parents who have opted out of Common Core aligned standardized tests for their children. But I wonder what it will really take to change the narrative and have the voice in the wilderness be a part of a Hallelujah Chorus instead.