Dear President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama,
I am writing due to extreme concerns about the American Public Education System being altered and changed on your watch. I am in my 53rd year as an educator. I entered my first classroom, as a teacher, in 1961 and have learned at all levels of instruction since that time.
As I analyze the legacy of your time leading this great nation, these specific concerns come to mind:
Prior to your administration a family could move from state-to-state and find basically the same common core of essential skills and age-grade level curriculum wherever they settled. This did not happen by accident. It was the result of great evolving leadership and the need to address the Americanization (socialization) of our youth. This is the concept that built One Nation out of a chaos of divergent views and cultures. Now? Chaos is returning.
Prior to your administration, with few exceptions, public schools were not created as sources of investment income or profit. Schools were run by democratically elected boards under state supervision. Schools were accountable for financial management and academic achievement. A proven (if not100%s effective) means of teacher accountability and school effectiveness was in place and functioning well in areas where great poverty and futility were not generated by our failed economic system.
Prior to your administration, the tax dollars Americans pay for public education could not be accessed by profiteers or religious groups and cults. No taxpayer was forced to support a religion, ideology, or partial school with their education tax dollars.
Sadly, strengthened by your administration, an unproven and false use of testing replaced the tests used by educators to understand student needs and to teach effectively. Data generated by wrong and unproven means is causing great harm to students and teachers throughout America. The only known beneficiaries of this drive for data are the corporations creating the tests, and the egos of billionaires who use their wealth to force their “hunches” on our schools.
Your administration supports those who can buy access to schools and thus children’s minds. Your administration accepts the whims of billionaires who have no certification, little or no contact with professional educators, no concept of the history of American education and how education is delivered, and most devastating, they have very little concern for our children. Almost all send their children to separate schools that do not follow the rules your administration is instigating.
Continuing in your administration, a cardinal rule of education is being violated. Children are being used as the fodder for experiments. Professional Educators do not experiment on children. Parents do not send their children to school to suffer experiments. Damage is done to tens of thousands of children in the name of reform, change, and profit.
In your administration, the USDOE is responsible for the extreme and poorly thought-out ideologies about data. They have sold out to the profiteers. The DOE has supported the idea that corporations that profit from federal mandates (direct or indirect like RTT), should reform our great American education system. That people with wealth, but little knowledge of education, never vetted, elected, or certified, can devise systems that evaluate educators with student test scores. That experts and those who have done the hard work and learned on the job, are ignored and labeled crybabies. That groups that represent teachers are the enemy. That all kids should be standardized and educated by a cookie-cutter shaped by an unproven and inadequate common core that limits or replaces the teaching of the essential skills.
On your watch teachers have been denigrated by your DOE. This has resulted in a discount of public schools by communities and the lack of support for education techniques and procedures necessary for learning. It is responsible for an increase in discipline problems in our schools due to the, “Teachers are the problem!” message.
As an educator who believes in you and is filled with hope by both of you, these concerns about what is happening to our public schools project a bleak and ugly future for America. I understand the Tea Party take on all of this, but never thought they would win. As of now, the history books will point out that the demise of a great national public school system was fostered by your administration.
History will show that during your watch, the American Dream and One America were severely damaged. In their place, control by a wealthy few without qualifications, certification, or experience. An oligarchy motivated by profits, not the needs of America or America’s children. We will read that the destruction of public schools resulted in the end of American Democracy and the power of We The People.
Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle, it is not too late to meet with experienced educators and education historians and counter wrong decisions and the damage done.
Edward F. Berger, Ed.D.