Very recently Matt Damon gave a speech thousands of teachers, parents and others who attended the Save Our Schools march on the Ellipse near the White House to protest the Obama administration’s education policies that are centered on standardized tests.
While this has nothing to do with the education here in our country, I just had to commend and thus blog about Matt Damon’s stand. I also do not feel it is right that the salaries of teachers, whether here or in other countries, should depend on the results of the standardized tests of the school children. While I certainly hope that children all learn to read and write because their children were concerned about them learning we have to agree that children have different learning capabilities. There are different ways to teach a child and one style would not work for all.
Children’s learning process does not run the same way. Some may learn fast while others need special attention. Some may learn easily in groups while others may want individual teaching. And Matt is correct in saying that not everything we learn can be tested. The same way that we let our children go their separate ways, to follow the path they love, to develop their passions, and to learn and to love learning to the best of their ability, the way they know best, is how I see teachers should do it, too.
I would rather see my son criticized for being different as long as he believes it is right. I would love to see my son passionately defend his ideas; no matter how different it is with the norm, than simply follow because everybody is doing it. I will champion my son for standing up to his rights, for fighting for the rights of other people rather than be silent so as not to make ripples or disturb the status quo. The ability to empathize and to know what you believe in and to stand for it, what is important, what is right, and most importantly to think for yourself is not something that can be learned by memorizing the abc’s and 1 + 1 but by learning the whys and the hows’, by discovering own strengths and weaknesses, and by knowing that you have a responsibility to your fellowmen, and that you can effect change if you stand for what us right. I know that if there is one thing I would love to know is that I have taught my son to treat his fellowmen equally - not to kowtow to big names and not to shun those in cheap work clothes.
Teachers are parents, too, and I know that they became teachers because they have a passion for teaching. And the result of their passion is one thing that cannot be measure with standardized tests. The incentives, the bonuses, the basic salary and most importantly, the job security should not be based on the result of the school children’s standardized tests.
Here is the complete text of the speech:
I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.
I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.
I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.
And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am ... can be tested.
I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.
Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’ That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.
I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.
I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.
I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.
This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.
So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. ... Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.