Friday, March 29, 2013

Climbing Out of the Deep End

I'm pretty good at going off the deep end. I do it for good causes and bad. I'm equal opportunity in my panic. Lately, I've been freaking out about schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core.

Chicken Little, he ain't got nothing on me.

So this week I've been considering having my kids opt-out of the state exams. It turns out that it takes me writing a letter, them going pushing the test booklet away, and me picking them up from school early so they aren't bored to tears. No problem, right?


It's not much problem for me, but it's a lot to ask of my daughters. They're good kids and do very well in school. They play by the rules. Like so many other kids, they're not in a hurry to stand out. Asking them to refuse to take the exam is asking them to stand out in a big way for something that is my fight, not theirs. Refusing the test would be difficult for them and they wouldn't understand completely why they were doing it other than because I asked them to. That puts them in the position of having to choose between refusing their teachers or refusing me. It's a lousy place to be and I don't have a good enough reason to put them there.

Instead, I've been looking for kindred spirits online and in the real world.

In the real world, I haven't had much luck. Parents aren't that upset and they, with good reason, like their kids' teachers and schools. As much trouble as I have had with some of the homework and school program, I also like and respect their teachers. I like their school. The administrators are caught between a rock and the department of education. None of us are ready to burn the place down.

Online, it's another world. Actually, it's two worlds.

The first is a world of fellow teachers trying to push back against the reforms that don't seem focused on kids, learning, or equality. We go back and forth in many ways. Sometimes we just gripe about this and that like a bunch of whiny babies. That's okay. Friends can do that. But a much larger percentage of our conversations are substantive and ask, "what can we do about all of this?"

I like this world of teachers. It reminds me of the Aaron Sorkin quote from Sports Night: "It's taken me a lot of years, but I've come around to this: If you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you." I like how I'm surrounded in this online world.

The other online world is more confusing. I got into it because people were ready to tear the heart out of the department of education, burn the standards, and opt their kids out of the testing. I was ready to grab a pitchfork and torch, and do whatever the hell it was we were planning to do. Then Glenn Beck's name came up and it was like I was a bird flying into a window.


The theory among a lot of these people is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but I don't buy it. If I start teaming up with the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Michelle Malkin, it's a clear sign that I've lost my way.

I'm still good at going off the deep end, but this time I'll sit back and see what's going on. I'm still upset about testing, the common core, and all the rest, but I'm not willing to burn down the school or throw in with Glenn Beck. What I'm willing to do is to keep thinking, talking, and listening.

And, as always, I'll write on.