Absurdity of reform: Should I laugh or should I cry?

Not feelin’ too good myself….(Joe Cocker)

Seems I got to have a change of scene
Cause every night I have the strangest dreams
Imprisoned by the way it used to be
Left here on my own or so it seems
I got to leave before I start to scream
But someone’s locked the door and took the key

I need to vent. Bear with me. No corporate connections today. Just raw emotion. Just sheer lack of clarity. Help me understand….

2:00 pm — I enter my daughter’s school to volunteer for the ginger bread house- making activity in her 1st grade classroom. As we’re all creating (parents and kids) my mind is noting all the amazing skills the children are using to create their masterpieces: logic, spatial relations, symmetry, problem solving, counting, measuring, and physics to name a few. I snap some pics. I think about the numerous other ways that children can think and express their understanding above and beyond standardized tests, which measure few if any meaningful bodies of knowledge or comprehension. Even building ginger bread houses have more meaning, purpose…and joy. I leave feeling good.


                                                  Molly making gingerbread house

3:05 pm  — Leaving the school I turn on CNN satellite radio in my car. There’s a school shooting in Centennial, CO, home to one of my best friends and her son who attends public high school in Centennial. I have now lost altitude. I am shaking as I text, “Are you ok????” I can’t breath. An hour later, thankfully she delivers me the news that she and her son are ok. But the need to cry still wells up in me as I write this now, 5:17 pm. Is it relief? Or is it profound sadness that lies just beneath the surface of my psyche every day that I wake up to this reality? How much more can we take? How much more will we stand?


                                                        Centennial, CO, 12/13/2013

As the media, millionaires, and the politicians (who serve as their pets) spout “21st century skills” and “career and college readiness,” children are going in to schools armed with guns to confront their teachers…again. On the anniversary of Sandy Hook no less. How many more times must this happen before reformers stop this self-serving “reform” charade while more and more communities suffer?

Boy you sure took me for one big ride
Even now I sit and wonder why
And when I think of you I start to cry
Got to stop belivin’ in all your lies
Cause I got to much to do before I die

Hey Arne, hey Gates, hey Rhee, hey Walton and the rest of you assholes…wake the fuck up. Spending billions of dollar on “faux” world class standards forced upon states by a federal/corporate agenda and the new rounds of ramped up tests that go with them do not speak to the issues we face. They serve you’re interests. Not our childrens. We’ve got an amputated leg and you’re handing us two aspirin. And we’re done with it. We need to make more ginger bread houses and stop increasing the levels of anxiety, depression, stress on children while saying “it’s for their own good.” Wasting monies that schools desperately need to function as meaningful sites of learning by handing it over to billionaires who claim to be “helping” is ethically bankrupt.

And I’m sick of appealing to people and institutions that will never care or will never understand. While my friend’s son is ok…someone else’s child right now in Colorado is in critical condition. How do I begin to grapple with that while on Capitol Hill politicians bicker like five year olds, companies like Pearson are holding out their hands for more money to abuse my child with their bogus tests, and now more children than since the Great Depression in New York City are homeless. All around us right now, today, children are struggling and suffering in unimaginable ways. And our solution is to shell out “standards” (written by testing companies and private interests) and administer more tests (to the benefit of those same aforementioned groups)?

Why do I keep screaming into an empty vacuous space where no one who is charge seems to be listening? What will it take to end this?

Or do I make gingerbread houses… because if I don’t I might not ever stop crying?

I have to give an exam next week for my undergraduate class on Urban Education. We’ve talked about policies, poverty, greed, and “reform.” But right about now, I think my exam is going to be comprised on making ginger bread houses. We all need it, I think.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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