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Teacher to DeVos: No, I’m not ‘hostile’ to change. We just don’t agree on the changes schools need.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (C) speaks as President Donald Trump (L) and educator Kenneth Smith (R) listen during a parent-teacher conference listening session at the Roosevelt Room of the White House February 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White House held the session to discuss education. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Pennsylvania teacher Peter Greene has a message for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

DeVos, a Michigan billionaire whose nomination by President Trump sparked unprecedented opposition for an education secretary, has been speaking out recently about her critics and about protesters who greeted her at a D.C. public school when she visited last week. On Feb. 15, she gave a speech at the Magnet Schools of America 2017 National Policy Training Conference and said:

“Last Friday, a handful of protesters tried to block my entrance into Jefferson Middle School Academy here in D.C. While I eventually made it in, and had very constructive conversations with Chancellor Wilson, many D.C. administrative leaders, some terrific teachers and Principal Dohmann, the protesters’ behavior is a reflection of the way some seek to treat our education system — by keeping kids in and new thinking out. Friday’s incident demonstrates just how hostile some people are to change and to new ideas.”

Some of those people beg to differ. Green,  a veteran teacher of English in a small town in Pennsylvania, is a critic of DeVos and her passion for school choice over traditional public schools, in which he teaches. He published the following post on his Curmudgucation blog.

By Peter Greene

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke recently to a gathering of magnet school folks, and opened up by suggesting that “some people” are “hostile” to change.

I just want to be clear. I am not hostile to change. In fact, there are some changes that I would love to see.

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I would love to see a change in the rhetoric about failing schools. Instead of declaring that we will “rescue” students from failing schools and offering lifeboats for a handful of students, I’d like to change to a declaration that where we find struggling and failing schools, we will get them the support and resources that they need to become great.

I would love to see a change in how we approach the communities where those schools are located. Instead of pushing local leaders aside so that outsiders who “know what’s best” for them can swoop in and impose decisions for them, how about letting them have control of their own communities?

I would love to see a change in how teachers are treated. Instead of trying to bust their unions, smother their pay, ignore their voices, and treat them as easily-replaced widgets, I would like to see teachers elevated, listened to and heard, respected, and given the support and resources that would lift them up. I would like to see them treated as part of the solution instead of the source of all problems.

I would love to see a change in how we discuss race and poverty, treating them as neither destiny nor unimportant nothings.

I would love to see a change in how we treat public education. I would love to see public education treated like a sacred trust and not a business opportunity. I would love to see us pursue a promise to educate all children– not just the few that we deem worthy or profitable or best reached by a sensible business plan. Every child.

I would love to see a change in the status quo. At this point, the status quo is a public education system that is being smothered and dismantled by people who lack expertise in education and belief in the promise of public education. The education “establishment” has been pushed out and replaced by well-meaning amateurs, profiteers, scam artists, and people who have no desire to maintain the civic institution that has been the foundation of our robust and vibrant democracy. Corporate school reformers are the status quo, and that is a status quo I would love to change, because they have had their change to improve schools for years, and all of their promises have proven to be at best empty and at worst toxic.

I would love to see us change from schools that are standardized test-centered,  data-driven and revenue-obsessed schools to those  that are student-centered.

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And all of that is because I welcome the change that I have always worked to foster — the growth of young students into valuable, individual and capable adults,  the change of each child from an unsure rough draft into the version of their own best self.

No, secretary. I am not hostile to change at all. I embrace it, welcome it, hope for it and work for it every day. There are many of us out here, and if you imagine we are hostile to change, that is one more thing about public education that you do not understand.

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