Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Am Not Hostile To Change

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke today to a gathering of Magnet School folks, and opened up by suggesting that "some people" are "hostile" to change.

I just want to be clear. I am not hostile to change. In fact, there are some changes that I would love to see.

I would love to see a change in the rhetoric about failing schools. Instead of declaring that we will "rescue" students from failing schools and offering lifeboats for a handful of students, I'd like to change to a declaration that where we find struggling and failing schools, we will get them the support and resources that they need to become great.

I would love to see a change in how we approach the communities where those schools are located. Instead of pushing local leaders aside so that outsiders who "know what's best" for them can swoop in and impose decisions for them instead of letting them have control of their own community.

I would love to see a change in how teachers are treated. Instead of trying to bust their unions, smother their pay, ignore their voices , and treat them as easily-replaced widgets, I would like to see teacher voices elevated, listened to, respected, and given the support and resources that would lift them up. I would like to see them treated as part of the solution instead of the source of all problems.

I would love to see a change in how we discuss race and poverty, treating them as neither destiny nor unimportant nothings.

I would love to see a change in how we treat public education. I would love to see public education treated like a sacred trust and not a business opportunity. I would love to see us pursue a promise to educate all children-- not just the few that we deem worthy or profitable or best reached by a sensible business plan. Every child.

I would love to see a change in the status quo. Because at this point, the status quo is a public education system that is being smothered and dismantled by people who lack expertise in education and belief in the promise of public education. The education "establishment" has been pushed out and replaced by well-meaning amateurs, profiteers, scam artists, and people who have no desire to maintain the institution that has been the foundation of a robust and vibrant democracy. Reformsters are the status quo, and that is a status quo I would love to change, because they have had their shot, and all of their promises have proven to be at best empty and at worst toxic.

I would love to see us change from test-centered schools, data-centered schools, and revenue-centered schools to schools that are student-centered, that steer by the children at their center.

And all of that is because I welcome the change that I have always welcomed, built for, worked for-- which is the change of young humans into grown, fully-realized, awesome, grown, valuable, living, breathing, completely individual and fully capable adults, the change of each child from an unsure rough draft into the version of their own best self.

No, Secretary. I am not hostile to change at all. I embrace it, welcome it, hope for it and work for it every day. There are many of us out here, and if you imagine we are hostile to change, that is one more thing about public education that you do not understand.


  1. Yes. This. Exactly. This is, like, a manifesto, Peter.

  2. You get me, Peter. You and Aaron Sorkin. Thank you.

  3. Yep. The "reformers" are the establishment now. They are the status quo they have been railing against for years.

  4. I'm standing and applauding, Peter!
    Sharing widely.

    Christine Langhoff

  5. You've said it for all of us. Thank you!

  6. Amazing! Truth...spoken as the true education professional our public school teachers are but never get recognized for. They love our children and make a huge investment in their young lives. As a parent, thank you for speaking up and standing up for our babies! I speak as a the mother of a child whose public school teachers prepared him well for college. Their investment is his success.

  7. I would love to see this printed in the huffington Post.

  8. Very well said. I am a local public school board VP. May I read this as part of our public comment at our board meeting tomorrow? Would love to have this entered into our public record? Thanks. Diana DeGraaf. Three Rivers, Michigan.

  9. Peter, I do not know you, I am not an educator and I only know the that the public education system is what a GREAT American (Mr. Benjamin Franklin) envisioned and helped to implement. I also know that if it were not for our public school system most Americans (even most of those who voted for Pres. Trump) would not have an education. And, I also know that much of the problem with ignorance in our society is due to the drop out rate in our school system. Other countries require all children to go through 12th grade and we should too. As a senior citizen and a retired businessman I have see the results of those who have not had a complete education for far top many years. You are right on in everything you say and I only wish that requiring children to complete every grade in HS would be something you might add. Thank you for you wonderful words.

  10. Thank you for your passion. I started teaching junior high in 1973 and even theme, saw the need for change. Over the years as a teacher and now a college professor, I still see passionate future teachers needing guidance on how to be effective. This is where we need to focus our attention and amplify the desire of so many teachers by providing them with management tools. Our students do and should keep us thinking outside the box- but teachers need administrators that encourage such thinking- in that is freedom and excitement and success for all. I applaud your post and am glad to call you a colleague.

    Linda Metcalf, PhD
    Author: Teaching Toward Solutions