Marching is good, this is better

The July 30 Save Our Schools march in Washington puts a spotlight on teacher frustration.  (Was there ever a time when teachers were not frustrated with policy makers? students? parents? administrators? or other teachers?)  Anthony Cody’s June 22 blog describes his frustration with the democratic governance of public education:

In my previous blog I asked if the Washington marchers were marching for anything in particular.  That was silly of me.  They are marching because they believe many things about improving public education.  Diane Ravitch listed hers in this blog:

She lays down admirable protestations and urgings to federal policymakers.  Public educators are marching because they are frustrated with federal governance, but they believe federal governance can improve public education.  Why else would they march in Washington, DC, instead of state capitals?  (It must not occur to them that nobody in the federal government is elected to govern public education?)

The links in Cody’s blog describe his frustrations with federal policymakers who don’t listen to teachers.  His observation is correct.  The difference between him and me is that he knows nobody in the federal government is listening, but he continues to believe in the democratic governance of public education.  He continues to believe it can improve public education.  He even believes federal democratic governance can improve it.

I believe that is impossible for the reasons explained in TSVOTEP and an earlier blog:

Therefore, I react differently to the idea of educators marching in Washington.  I admire those who believe in democracy, but I point to Cody’s frustrations as reasons for not democratically, or federally governing public education.  One of my reasons, as Cody points out, is that politicians don’t listen to teachers.

Instead, here is my suggestion for all teachers — those who will and will not be marching in Washington on July 30.  You can improve public education by simply closing your classroom door and explaining to your students that the educated person demonstrates the six virtues of understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity.  Tell them you will model and teach those virtues in everything that goes on in the classroom.  They are expected to do the same, and your feedback to them will reflect your judgments on how well they are doing.

Nobody can stop you from doing that.  What are they going to say?

1.  “You can’t model and teach the six virtues of the educated person.”

2.  Or “You can’t ask students to develop the six virtues.”

3.  Or “You can’t evaluate students on their six-virtue development.” (Which, by the way, is both necessary and sufficient for developing the knowledge and skills outlined in every state curriculum.)

If you do this, two things will happen for sure:  (1) Your frustration will be less.  (2) Your students’ test scores will improve.

Can you say the same for a march in Washington, even if it is a beautiful, inspiring city?



#1 Jay Westbrook on 09.13.11 at 3:31 pm

I used these virtues last semester and the kids loved it. It was a “refreshing approach” to my classroom mantra. It is obvious testing is not working(NC has eliminated almost all EOC courses in High School). Why do schools or teachers not try to help students understand what it takes to be educated?

I am a believer and the kids were more interested in becoming a better educated person than multiple choice tests. I could see it in their eyes!

#2 casey on 09.13.11 at 5:25 pm

Thanks Jay. I appreciate your willingness to think philosophically about your work in public education.
This is a great testament.

#3 casey on 09.13.11 at 7:15 pm

You may or may not realize that I am collecting stories from teachers who can share a time when the six virtues made a learning situation better, or when the six vices made it worse. So far I have two such stories. Do you have one or two from your experiences last semester? Can I call you to discuss this possibility? What number can I reach you at?
Casey Hurley

Leave a Comment