Democracy is alive and well in those organizations that truly advocate for children and public education. Two such organizations are Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) and Badass Teachers of Tennessee (BATS). Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn, authors of The Mismeasure of Education, were the guest speakers on March 1 at a Community Forum on Standardized Testing: Tested to Death in Nashville, Tennessee hosted by TREE and attended by members of both organizations as well as members of the public.
What is striking about both organizations is their passion for public education in word and deed. These organizations are accomplishing great things for children in Tennessee, informing teachers and parents about the oppressive policies of corporate education reform through social media; messaging workshops; hosting the documentary, “Standardized Lies, Money, & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Public Education;” and working closely with state representatives and senators on legislation that will halt the current destruction of public education in Tennessee.
Among those pictured: Jan Allen, Larry Proffitt, Cindy Parks, Linda Brandau Holtzclaw, Amy Cross Cate, Lucianna M Sanson, Karen Elizabeth, Sherry J. Morgan, April Jones Winton, Teresa Lynn Collins Rotella, Lauren Hopson, Teresa Brown, Missy Graves, Julia Smalling, and Mark Taylor.
The President of the Tennessee BATS, Lucianna Sanson, describes the Tennessee BATS first face-to-face meeting at the Community Forum in Nashville:
The Community Forum on Standardized Testing was the first event that I attended as a "TN BadAss Teacher." Tn BATs came together from all across the state to meet, greet, and listen to Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn talk about their book, The Mismeasure of Education. Actually being at the BATs meeting was surreal moment for me, because, for months, I had communicated with my fellow teacher advocates via social media and phone- never in person. Making the connections outside of the "matrix" made me realize that our grassroots movement was real. It was incredibly empowering and uplifting to be "doing" and not just "talking about doing."
For months, TN BATs had discussed "How can we we come together and meet in person?" Well, amazingly enough, things just fell into place for us. One day, I was contacted by a TN BAT who told me that Jim and Denise were interested in meeting with TN BATs from across the state. At the same time, I found out from my contact at TREE that Jim and Denise were being invited to speak in Nashville. We decided to work together to bring the duo to Nashville so we could conduct the interview and also listen to the presentation on testing on the same day.
Our collaboration worked out well- plus-I came away from the gathering with a signed copy of the book and an in-depth look at how and why TN has become one of the most heavily tested states in the Nation. After listening and speaking with Jim and Denise, our mission as teachers and parents became clear: we have to stop the over testing of our students, we have to stop the erosion of the teaching profession, and we have to stop the fear that perpetuates the schools we teach in. We have to speak truth to power and be honest and rational and firm.
We also learned that we have to get involved with politics, no matter how distasteful it is to us- the only way to effect change is to join a Teacher's Association or become active in grassroots movements. Speak out, be honest, talk to parents, talk to students, encourage parental involvement and participation in students daily lives, if at all possible.
The meeting with Jim and Denise left me inspired, determined, and resigned to the fact that I am in this war of public education for the long haul. What hope I have for our success is tempered, with the very real knowledge, that politicians and corporations work together to milk the cash cow that is public education. The message that I took from this meeting was to go forth and be fruitful- do good works- speak out- stick together- and recruit as many like-minded parents, and teachers as we can if we expect to win the war on Public Education.