A Teacher Writes: President Obama, Please Change Now
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Today I am working to assemble the close to 400 letters the Campaign for Our Public Schools, spearheaded by Diane Ravitch, has collected in the past twelve days. They will be sent to the White House, the Department of Education, and made available for download. Today I am sharing one more, written by a math teacher from Southern California, Lori Walton.
Dear President Obama,
I have received an average of three emails per day from your campaign, sometimes signed personally by you or your wife Michelle, over the past several months. You have asked a lot of me in those emails. But most of all you have asked me to have your back.
I'm a team player, but I don't trust you Mr. Obama.
The emails began when I responded to a campaign call to get in touch with you, as you wanted to be in touch with the American people. I took you at your word and sent you a personal message regarding the state of public education in America. I received a response from someone in your campaign lauding all that you have "done" in support of public education, which unfortunately addressed none of my concerns. At the time I figured that was par for the course - you weren't worried about the teacher vote - my one vote - so why pay attention to my one voice. I mean, you had already been endorsed by the AFT, and the NEA wasn't far behind in their endorsement of your re-election.
You see, I can do the math. I am a public school mathematics educator in California. My current teaching assignment is 8th grade math - teaching Algebra to one group of kiddos and doing my best to "remediate" another group with the help of my team (not what we'd like to be doing, but what we have been assigned to do.) While the arithmetic of one voice one vote isn't true at all in America, the arithmetic works for an incremental increase of campaign contributions over an entire engaged population that has an exponential impact on campaign coffers.
However, cynicism did not win out when your staff response arrived, and I did not lose hope that you would somehow be persuaded to listen to educators, parents, and students who are outraged at your adherence to policy that lines the pockets of corporations (likely the very ones who support your campaign) rather than fulfill a promise, a solemn vow, to our nation's youth. Inspired again by an email from your campaign, I wrote to you a second time.
Imagine my disappointment to receive the exact same email response, twice.
First time, shame on me, second time SHAME ON YOU.
You have sold out our young by advocating for policy that ignores poverty, that celebrates all the wrong kinds of school experiences, that punishes the very people who ARE America. You have sided with the corporations, the testing companies, and the capitalists who want their fair share of the global $1T education industry. You have allowed rhetoric to reign by engaging with a bipartisan group of eduphilanthropists to tell a false story to American people. You have turned your back on main street by allowing the mass closings of neighborhood schools by corporate demagogues and by supporting the allocation of very scarce resources afforded any marginalized community to be spent far away from the classrooms where everyone else's kids, but not yours, spend their days. You talk about an education that seizes our future, secures jobs of the future, and insures a stronger future for America, but you put no one qualified to lead that charge in your administration.
You have ignored students, parents, and teachers in our cry for an end to high-stakes standardized testing, an end to the junk science of value-added measurement using those scores, an end to the boredom of the bubble world of teaching to the test, an end to stale curriculum for the poor and children of color, and an end of co-opting of school buildings, with charter amenities for those who "won" the lottery and bottom of the basement conditions for everyone else. You have ignored our pleas for fully funded neighborhood schools, which employ an experienced and passionate staff that provides a rich, whole, and rewarding school experience for every child - regardless of class, race, gender, or ability. The fact is:
YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT US.
Today, I have received 15 emails from your campaign. Each message asks me to financially support you, to campaign for you, to believe in you, to have your back.
I ask you this:
What have YOU done for my students, my colleagues, my school, my community, or ME lately?
I'm all about altruism Mr. President, I teach it everyday. But I teach it by example. Be an example as the leader of the free world. Do what is right by our democracy by supporting a public education that embraces education as a right, not a privilege. Fully support a public education of the people, by the people, and for the people so that humanity does not perish from this earth. You are the only one who needs to change, Sir. So please, change now.
We have stopped collecting letters to be sent to the White House, but you can still send yours, in one of two ways:
- You can mail copies of your letters through US mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500
- You can send them directly to the White House by email from this page.
Lori Walton is a mathematics teacher at Ruth O. Harris Middle School, Bloomington, Colton Joint Unified School District, located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. She has worked for 14 years in public education and 15 years prior in the private sector. She has two kids graduated from public schools and their youngest is in the 5th grade. Her bachelors degree and teaching credential is from Cal State San Bernardino and M.A. is from University of California, Riverside. Her husband lovingly tolerates a wife who works past 3, seems to never have a real vacation, and writes letters to politicians :)