Op Ed: Telling It Like It Is in NC-Studying Our Options in NC-Opting Out, Teacher Tenure

Written by Charlie Morris (aka not Zoe)
I have been seriously inactive lately for Blue Hat stuff. Pamela Grundy, the co author of a recent and courageously written N&O article about Opting Out,  has been in touch with Zoe and I.  I have been ducking calling her even though I support the cause.  First of all, I am a single dad and hey…my plate is FULL.  But there are other reasons. Here they are…
I must admit that I am currently suffering from not a lack of courage, but a lack of belief that the current system can just be buffered up and made good once again.  My attempts to get Zoe’s 0 status removed at the state level, from her opting out of testing last year has gone no where-literally.  No help from the Principal.  The letter I wrote to the state level rep, who is in charge of such things, went completely ignored.  I also offered my piece on the topic to the N&O, the local newspaper in Raleigh.  They didn’t mention it or cover it in the paper, even after the reporter had asked to see it.  I still admittedly feel disappointed that last year Zoe was literally the only kid in the district to opt out.  We live in a pocket of NC that is supposedly exceedingly liberal and free minded.  Yet, not one other person stepped forward?  So…where am I at? Frazzled.  Disappointed for sure in the elected leaders of NC for what they are supporting for our children.   Enjoying the relative virtues of being marginilized by this bizarre system that was formerly about education. In other words, I have been fairly quiet.
I have been feign to do much lately because I am unsure of how to proceed best.  I truly feel that the corporations are not one, but two or three steps ahead of us in their quest to standardize all “learning”.  Why? Please see “standardized packaging”.  It makes it easier to deliver a product.  And that is what is being sold now.  Education is being sold like a product instead of a process or dare I say it…a fascinating journey. So, even as we fight what is here currently to wrestle with, they are already on to the next thing…rendering the current battle sort of as a distraction or an obfuscation to what they already have planned.  I feel that as long as we do not self organize, we will always be requesting fairness from those who seek to take advantage of our collective trust that they have our best interests at heart…and they apply a system that is only fair to a certain segment of the population.  I feel that the writing is on the wall here if we look around the country.  The friendly requests for fairness simply do not work.  What works is mass refusal and taking education (not) back…but taking it somewhere new altogether.
So, I hate to sound negative.  But currently I am picking my fights a bit better and staying out of losing ones.  I am sitting still and looking for the right kind of opening to present itself.   I think the fight to get schools back to a good place cannot be won. Fighting the gov’t cannot be won.  But organizing children completely differently and into smaller groups of decentralized learning groups…to me that feels possible and more positive.  We shouldn’t fight to make the gov’t agree with us about how to educate our children.  They never had the right to do so from the start.  In a way, arguing with them, lends credence to their power.  When you find yourself asking for your rights back…it means that you are talking to someone who took them without your permission.  I say we need to change the conversation completely.  Don’t talk to them at all.  We simply should educate our children.  And for the parents that cannot because they are working (like me), we can hopefully find a way to have things in place that support them as well.  I don’t think that we can ever get the gov’t out of the current educational system.  They created it. It is their system and we merely partake of it.   It will never be ours.  If we want education that is ours for our children, we must make our own, pulling together resources that make sense to us.  The government has no role in the education of most of the wealthiest families in America.  That isn’t an opinion.  It is the truth.  The government does not tell private schooled children how to learn or what test to take.  Many have never considered that.  We debate the merits of common core, assuming it is something that all children must struggle through.  It isn’t. The wealthiest do not.  All the things that we public school parents struggle with (testing, learning by rote, more testing, et al) is something that private schools do not have to contend with.  It is only us…the working folks who cannot afford such schools who are subject to government style education.  And I want to be clear that I am not saying teachers in public schools are the “government”.  I feel the worst for them.  I have never met a teacher who wanted what we have now in public schools.  I am also not setting up a class divide argument or an us or a them.  What I am saying is that if Common Core was such a valuable tool, such a wonderful democratized method of education…don’t you think that the well funded private schools all across America would be using it?  Guess what?  They aren’t.  Case closed.
A comment I get a lot from concerned parents and even teachers is a retort to when I mention corporate and for profit interests.  Many people simply do not grasp the connection between Pearson Publishing and many other influences.  If you had to sum up what is happening in our schools in two words…here they are “profit motive”.  So let  me be clear, and just sound terribly off base when I say that you will not truly understand what is happening to public schools until you do your research and grasp that government sponsored education is now in the hands of business and for profit interests.  The best way to fight it is to not fight them at all.  But to create a system that does not include them.
Just as the wealthier among us do not have to fight the government or for profit interests when it comes to a quality education for their children…we deserve the same.  There has to be a better way to go about this.  And for this many children, I honestly don’t know how this will work.  Homeschooling and Unschooling can achieve this end, but only for a relative few.  But as a people we can’t leave behind children with parents who both work full time and cannot be at home with their children.
I hope that we see a new way to teach and learn in a more collaborative fashion.  Free from control by CEO’s.  I don’t want my daughter’s name on any sheet that indicates Profit/Loss statements and her school’s name on the top.  We all deserve education that is filled with the input of students, teachers and involved parents, not a corporation, not a politician.
Until then we can take steps.  We can refuse-flat out-to take tests.  We can refuse to allow Common Core in our schools.  And to draw a line in the sand…if you are not opting out…you are responsible for supporting the system that you wish did not exist.  If you want something to change, you have to do something first.  So, opt out at the end of this schoolyear.  Make it so my daughter isn’t the only one who is brave enough to do so here in our little town.
Check out what is happening in Guilford County, NC where they are suing the state over the abolishment of teacher tenure….and make it happen in your county too (if you are in NC).
If you agree…share this article.
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12 thoughts on “Op Ed: Telling It Like It Is in NC-Studying Our Options in NC-Opting Out, Teacher Tenure

  1. Pingback: Parent’s View of Public Education: “if you are not opting out…you are responsible for supporting the system that you wish did not exist” | Missouri Education Watchdog

  2. Thank you for not blaming teachers for this. We fight against it on a daily basis. We fear for the loss of our jobs, in part because we all get paid, but, mostly because we know this is harmful to the students. It is assembly line education and the money is going to corporate honchos based in London, or silicon valley, or where ever they may be. Taking tax dollars out of the public school system to line their pockets. I can never figure out why people who send their kids to private schools are so involved in public schools?

  3. Pingback: Parent’s View of Public Education: “if you are not opting out… | Grumpy Opinions

  4. Charlie,
    We’re likely on the opposite side of the political spectrum, but I believe we’re on the exact same page when it comes to the over testing and some education related topics. I’ll be shooting you an email. Maybe there is a way we can help each other.

  5. I was just thinking something along these lines yesterday. I was thinking the first would be financial. Figure out how to support our school with just the local $$ and cut out the state and federal $$. I was thinking about all these regulations of accreditation that are established and what would happen if a community rebelled and ran their school anyway. I was thinking about how we would re-organize our teachers and classrooms so that kids could feel comfortable learning at levels they are ready for regardless of age and would stay there until they had mastered the concepts. i was thinking about an article i saw that said poor kids need more music, more art, and smaller group learning. It would mean a mixed age classroom similar to the one room schoolhouse. We would re-organize our classes to be taught as subjects, the teachers choosing the ones they felt the most passion for, instead of teaching all subjects to one age/peer group. I am not an educator. I am a parent. My ideology may be un-realistic in a real life school but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming.

  6. Hi Charlie. Thanks for the kind words. It was so important that you and Zoe made the decision to opt out last year, because it laid groundwork for those of us who are following in your footsteps. I’m still hanging on to the idea that the government is in the end the people, despite all the corporate money, and if enough voters speak out on an issue and follow up with their votes change is possible.

    We do need to straighten out this whole issue of how to score tests that were not taken. Ilina and I have made a formal request to the State School Board for a “refusal” code, such as is used in New York, that indicates a test was not taken. We will see how it goes. If we don’t see any progress by the next board meeting, we may need to schedule a protest outside the meeting to let the public know that this issue is not being handled in the best interest of schools, teachers and children. If that becomes necessary, we’d love to have you be part of it.

    Again, thank you for being brave and stepping out. Through many years of educational activism, I’ve learned that many people who are extremely “liberal” in many things are in fact quite conservative when it comes to making decisions about their children. So it can take a long time for them to act on their beliefs. But there are some more folks engaged around the state now. You’re not alone.

  7. I’m inspired. For months, I have been studying “in-depth” the last decade of the American education system, NC Education system, WCPSS, and Common Core. I know too much now! I have a third grader and of course it’s been “the year of the test” for us. I can not find much about what the consequences are for opting out in NC. I think that is why others are struggling to take this step. No one really knows what it means. It is unknown territory. In NC, the state law says if your 3rd grader does not pass the reading comprehension section of the EOGs, they do not pass their grade. So what happens if you opt out?

    I have joined your blog and looking forward to more. Share and share more. I’m forwarding this to my friends.

    • Hello Michele. Depending on which school district you live in, there are ways to meet the Read to Achieve requirements without taking the EOG. However, third grade is a grade you need to be especially careful about. We at MecklenburgACTS.org don’t recommend opting out in grades or situation where test scores are used in important decisions about placement or promotion.

      There is a movement among third-grade parents to get the state legislature to stop the use of the EOG as a promotion decision. You can find more information about that at http://www.rtanc.org.

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