Professor Celia Oyler‘s page on the Teacher’s College, Columbia University, website tells us that her ‘scholarly interests’ are classroom-based collaborative research on issues of social justice, equity, and accessible pedagogy; inclusive education and teacher education.
Thanks to a recent Diane Ravitch tweet, and a post on her blog, we’ve come across an open letter Prof Oyler recently wrote to her students.
Professor Ravitch’s blog post begins:
The Teachers College community is divided about the institution’s decision to honor Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York Board of Regents. Tisch has made her mark as a champion of high-stakes testing and charter schools.
Professor Celia Oyler wrote the following message to her graduate students:
“An Open Letter to Graduating Master’s Students in the Elementary and Secondary Inclusive Education Programs
I will not be attending convocation this year as I am on parental leave. I know if I were attending I would not be able to remain silent while Merryl Tisch is given a Teachers College Medal of Honor. Her actions while Chair of the New York State Board of Regents have wrought incredible damage upon our noble profession.
Read the rest of the letter here:
She ends it with these words:
There are activists in the educational community and Teachers College alumni who are debating whether to call for a protest of the Merryl Tisch award at your graduation. While there are different opinions on this topic, they are all asking if there will be a protest from the graduating students. They realize that you are entering teaching at a very difficult time and they admire your courage. They are hoping that as beginning teachers you can find small ways to protect both the children and our profession by protesting the horrible anti-child and anti-teacher policies pushed through with Race to the Top funding.
They hope you are entering the field of education knowing we need to fight courageously for an education that is based on children’s individual needs and does not try to reduce them to test scores; that you want to teach subjects even if they are not on the tests, such as the arts, music, drama, science investigations, and social studies inquiries. I have assured them you are visionary and courageous and that you see urban communities of color as full of multicultural resources and assets to be cultivated rather than as sinkholes of deficits that need to be corrected into middle class mainstream discourses as measured by the tests.
My heart is beating as I type these words, as I know that public education is under an organized assault by corporate reformers who seek to script your curricula and make you teach to their tests. These corporate reformers -The New Schools Venture Fund, the Gates Foundation; the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and so on – seem to have nearly unlimited funds.
What we have on our side is our vision for a different kind of education: one that supports children to dance and sing and debate and play and create and dream and make art and design projects that show their ideas about how to make the world a better place. What we have on our side is our belief in humanity, relationships, solidarity, diversity, democracy, freedom, justice, and equality. I know that none of you entered our teacher education program with the mere goal of helping children score well on a standardized test. You entered teaching to touch the hearts and minds of children, and to listen to and value their stories. And to tell them through your words and your actions, “I see you, I expect huge successes from you, and I love you.”
Please walk with dignity into St John the Divine, no matter what you choose to do or not do about Merryl Tisch. And always remember that no Value Added Score can EVER measure how much value you have added to a child’s life.”
Our fellow educationalists in the USA can be assured they’re not alone in their battles with zealous politicians, corporate ‘reformers’, their media allies, ‘performance-related’ pay, the targets culture, and widespread ignorance and misunderstanding about teaching and education.
These battles are not simply skirmishes about children’s rights and needs; pay and conditions in schools; aims and objectives of education; micromanagement of the curriculum and creeping privatisation of the education system. We’re involved in a much bigger war for the souls of our countries, and it’s a war that should have no bystanders or non-combattants, since it will affect all of us and determine what kinds of countries our children and grandchildren will inherit.
Diane Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.
She tweets @DianeRavitch
Her blog is http://dianeravitch.net/
- Teachers College to Honor Doyenne of High-Stakes Testing (dianeravitch.net)
- A Teacher’s Life | Diane Ravitch’s blog (bluelyon.wordpress.com)
- New York’s Evaluation System: Junk Science at Work! (dianeravitch.net)