Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grassroots “Save Our Schools” March on Washington & National Call to Action on July 28-31

This blog has tried to follow some of the grassroots movements in this country as a balance to the official messages coming from Secretary Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education that are often reflected in the mainstream media. We have learned about a march on Washington that will take place July 30th.

This grassroots movement of parents, teachers, students, community activists, and “everyday working people” has been endorsed by educational voices like Diane Ravitch, Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Joel Spring, Rethinking Schools' editors, David Berliner, among many others. Diane Ravitch will be one of the speakers at the DC rally. Prior to the march and rally in the park, participants will be able to participate in a number of seminars, workshops and advocacy meetings hosted by American University.

Here is their call to action:


For the future of our children, we demand the following…

Equitable funding for all public school communities

• Equitable funding across all public schools and school systems
• Full public funding of family and community support services
• Full funding for 21st century school and neighborhood libraries

End to economically and racially re-segregated schools

End to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation

• Multiple and varied assessments to evaluate students, teachers and schools
• No pay per test performance for teachers and administrators
• End to public school closures based upon test performance

Curriculum developed for and by local school communities

• Support teacher and student access to a wide-range of instructional programs and technologies
• Well-rounded education that develops every students’ intellectual, creative, and physical potential
• Opportunities for multicultural/multilingual curriculum for all students
• Small class sizes that foster caring, democratic learning communities

Teacher, parent and community leadership in forming public education policies

• Educator, parent and community leadership in drafting of new ESEA legislation
• Federal support for local school programs free of punitive and competitive funding
• End political and corporate control of curriculum, instruction and assessment decisions

Finding the current educational policies destructive and their own efforts to speak out largely marginalized, the organizers explain the motivation behind the movement:

Getting to this point has been a long journey. For the last few years, thousands of teachers and parents have been calling for action against No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and, more recently, questioning Race to the Top (RTTT).

Teachers, students, and parents from across the country have staged protests, started blogs, written op-eds, and called and written the White House and the U.S. Department of Education to try to halt the destruction of their local schools.

Numerous efforts have been made to get U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama to listen to US – the teachers, parents, and students who experience the effects of these disastrous policies every day. WE know that NCLB is not working. Unfortunately, it has been almost impossible to make our voices heard. Although we have the knowledge, the expertise, and the relationships with students that make education possible, we have been shut out of the conversation about school reform.

We, like all teachers and parents, want better schools. For our children’s sake, we are organizing to improve our schools – but not through the vehicle known as NCLB. It has been a disaster. Although there are various opinions about the many issues involved with school reform, it is now time to speak with ONE VOICE – that is, No Child Left Behind must not be reauthorized. We reclaim our right to determine how our children will be educated. We are organizing to revitalize an educational system that for too many children focuses more on test preparation than meaningful learning.We demand a humane, empowering education for every child in America.

For more information, go to:

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Mark Twain Controversy over Racially-Charged Language

Our readers are probably familiar with the current controversy over removing certain offensive words from Mark Twain's classics, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to make the books more suitable for young people to read. Ever since New South Books, a publisher in Alabama, announced the upcoming release of its new edition, there has been a number of debates in the media, blogs, and online commentary between those who view the move as a form of censorship that sanitizes the past and corrupts the force of the novels and those who believe that removing certain offensive racial epitaphs makes the books more accessible to young students. While many have focused on the substitution of the word "nigger" with the word "slave," the new edition also substitutes "Injun" with the more acceptable "Indian."

One of our favorite websites, American Indians in Children's Literature, has provided an interesting analysis from a Native American perspective. The author, Debbie Reese, has given us permission to reprint the analysis for the readers of our blog.

An American Indian perspective on changing "Injun" to "Indian" in TOM SAWYER
by Debbie Reese
Monday, January 10, 2011

On January 3rd, Publisher's Weekly carried an article called Upcoming NewSouth 'Huck Finn' Eliminates the 'N' Word. The article says that NewSouth Books is planning to release a version of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a single volume titled Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The article also says that the editor, Alan Gribben, replaced "nigger" with "slave" and "injun" with "Indian."

I've received several emails, asking what I think of the change.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Wikipedia for Legislation and Public Policymaking?

I received an e-mail recently from an Andrew Schwartz who thought our readers might be interested in a project that he and others have started. It is sort of a Wikipedia for legislation and policymaking that citizens can construct together. What do you think of this idea?

Here is more from his e-mail: is a site created by a group at Harvard that provides a user-friendly platform for public policymaking--it’s like a Wikipedia for legislation. Anyone can jot down some ideas, write a section of proposed legislation, or edit what has been written by others. If the issues you care about are not already featured on the site, you just add them. WTB is all about collaboration and moving the conversation forward! is launching a 3-day editing blitz on education legislation, starting at 8:00pm tonight. We’re bringing together policy experts, legal scholars, teachers, students, community activists, and everyday citizens to draft pieces of REAL legislation. Over the next 3 days, we’re going to tackle topics like:

• Teacher evaluation and merit pay
• School vouchers
• Charter schools
• And any other issue you feel compelled to add

Once our 3-day blitz is over, our goal is to have REAL legislation that’s ready to be introduced by the new Congress.

PS - if you’d like to find out more, please check out the site
or our quick (2 minute) video:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Special Farewell to Dean Stephanie Salzman: Early Supporter of the Journal of Educational Controversy

Welcome back to our blog in 2011! I’d like to start off the new year with a personal thank you and a special farewell to Dean Stephanie Salzman of the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University as she retires from the college this month.

Dean Salzman’s early support for the Journal of Educational Controversy in its infancy could only be based on the faith of an idea and a vision that existed merely in the mind of this editor. As she leaves the college this month, Dean Salzman will leave a legacy of a journal that has grown phenomenally in the last five years. Her support was both an act of visionary leadership and an act of courage for a journal that was about to set out to disclose and analyze the controversies that arise among the many stakeholders who influence the direction of education.

As the journal reaches its fifth anniversary in February of 2011, I am reminded of the importance of such leadership in a university as well as the collective support of its faculty. When I was the director of the college’s Center for Educational Pluralism between 2003-2007, I asked the faculty in one of our newsletters for its views about exploring the controversies in educating for a pluralistic, democratic society. I had for sometime been concerned about the contradictions between the idealistic rhetoric used in educational discourse and the reality of our actions, our institutions and our society. To effectively approach the realities of our educational systems, I believed the nation had to have a serious and in-depth conversation about the tensions, perplexities and dilemmas that arise in education and boldly face its many contradictions. It would take us into a discussion of the “undiscussables” in our nation’s conversation with itself . For a democracy constitutes itself in the very discussion it is having.

As we expressed it in our mission for the journal:

Because many of the tensions in public school and university policies and practices are deeply rooted in the tensions inherent in the philosophy of a liberal democratic state, many of the value conflicts in public schools and universities can only be understood within the context of this larger public philosophy. In effect, the conflicting assumptions underlying our public philosophy frame our questions, define our problems and construct the solutions that shape our practices, policies, and research agendas. This journal will try to help clarify that public debate and deepen an understanding of its moral significance.

I believe that Colleges of Education have a twofold mission. One is to prepare the next generation of teachers and other educational professionals but a second is to elevate the conversation about education among its citizens. Indeed, the purpose of this blog is to bring our journal’s authors into conversation with other educational professionals and the general public in a national and global format.

Both the faculty and our administration agreed and have been the support behind this journal. Our wishes go with you Dean Salzman as you embark on the next stage of your life and thank you for believing in this project when it was only a vision.