“…I know right now, and the answer’s no. No Doggone it! You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money! Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter! In the, in the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!”
—George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life
This is the time of year we are bombarded with wonderful movies (and some that are sappy) that celebrate the magic of Christmas. I am struck, interestingly so, that many of these movies have the same theme. They involve good people fighting against corporate greed.
Consider that a variety of National education groups around the country—the PTA, the American Library Association, the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, even the AFT and NEA (and this isn’t everybody)—have all accepted Potter’s offer to jump on board the Common Core State Standards bandwagon.
While Common Core is not the only bad reform, it is a biggie. Put it together with the de-professionalizing of teachers, the stripping away of budgets for the barest of school essentials (some don’t even have toilet paper), and, of course, the overemphasis on high-stakes testing that cruelly and unnecessarily condemns America’s students, and you have a perfect storm.
It’s the local groups that recognize the harm of school reform. They fight school closings and they even write new resolutions, realistically addressing student need. Their frustrations are no less than those facing George Bailey. All they want are good public schools for their children. They write letters imploring leaders (many whom never worked with children) to reconsider, and they even go to the streets to fight for what they believe is sacred for democracy to survive.
On December 21, parents, educators, and citizens around the country marched to proclaim education a civil rights issue http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/march-rally-today-in-milwaukee-seeks-support-of-public-education-b99103375z1-224704562.html. Did you see it on the news? I had to look for it. Unfortunately, most of us live where the media still believes ed. reform is a great big present with a nice red bow.
One of my other favorite movies is The Bishop’s Wife, though I must say there are few Cary Grant movies I don’t like. I also love the Whitney Houston version because there was never any singer that could belt it out like Whitney. But the whole story there revolves around misguided thinking. The characters in these movies all believe in the wrong ideals—at first.
And of course there’s Ebenezer. Dickens knew poverty. He grew up in it, and he forced all of us to face it through the wildly wonderful story plots and characters he devised for our entertainment. I don’t have to wonder, I know what Charles Dickens would think about today’s school reform movement.
Do today’s corporate leaders watch these movies in the mirror of reality?
I subscribe to the belief that Corporatists are not bad people…just arrogant, misinformed and/or mistaken. I know others might disagree with me and it could be up for debate. Potter never changed that we know of.
But maybe we can all agree that in this season when you are supposed to have revelations of great joy…where the magic is supposed to turn real…that maybe the Ed. Reformers will see the harm they are doing and turn it around. Or I’ve had too much eggnog and need to quit dreaming.
One thing is for certain. This won’t be a great Christmas for a lot of children who know after two weeks the same old school routine will rear its ugly head. Especially for those who are poor and whose school problems are compounded by the insurmountable challenges that come with poverty—homelessness, hunger, lack of nutrition, illness, even violence, etc.
Christmas is definitely not the magical wonderland observed on the Hallmark channel for most. Along with school problems, even children who don’t live in poverty face loss and strife just like adults. Children who have differences and who are not valued for their strengths and accomplishments suffer under the current ed. reforms. Schools, for all children, should be a refuge—warm caring environments that search and find greatness in each individual. Children and teens should be helped to overcome their difficulties! Their families should find support in the local school.
In the end, George finds solace and the Bishop realizes his mistake. Scrooge learns before it is too late that empathizing with people, and helping them overcome their trials and tribulations, brings far greater joy than financially profiting. But we all know, in reality, problems don’t always go away. Do they?
Can the spirit of the changed Ebenezer find its way into the hearts of those who see children only as data points and workers in the global economy? Will they finally realize that test scores are not the main ingredient to improving education? Maybe they will have an epiphany! Perhaps they will finally recognize that schooling is something so much more and that they can truly help children—not exploit them.
This is a Christmas wish.