When Aaron Barlow invited me to write this piece for Academe I had no idea what it would be unleashing. Quickly I receive several requests to republish/repost it, which included one from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post. When this appeared, a phenomenon began that I still have trouble fully grasping. If you look you will see the Post version has almost 2700 comments, more than 3300 tweets and – believe it or not – more than 102,000 Likes on Facebook! Between the Post and Academe the piece has been resposted or linked or referenced in dozens of other places, for example, here. To date I have received via Twitter, Facebook and email over 300 direct communications, and several people have come up to me at academic events to comment upon the piece.
In general, what I have read and received has been supportive of what I wrote. I have been given examples of how some departments and schools in colleges/universities are already being evaluated by test performances of the students they teach.
There are those who say that the phenomenon of unprepared students is nothing new. That may be true, but as I have pointed out in response, what is different starting with No Child Left Behind and continued with Race to the Top is the punitive sanctions imposed on K-12 schools, an imposition that raises the stakes and thereby increases the distortions of learning.
To date I have been interviewed by half a dozen radio shows in an equal number of states. I have been asked if I am willing to appear in a documentary, something to which I tentatively agreed, although because of some health issues with my spouse might now not be possible. I have been told my words are going to be quoted in major addresses in two significant forthcoming gatherings about education.
I have been asked for advice – by parents trying to decide about schooling for their children, by those considering becoming teachers or looking for positions in educational policy, by current teachers wondering what they can do to try to push back against what they see as things destroying public education.
I have tried to respond to all, although occasionally I have to politely suggest that I cannot carry on an ongoing conversation.
I am not unused to getting reactions to what I write. Aaron Barlow knew me from my visibility as teacherken at Daily Kos where over the past 9 years I have written on education and other topics and gotten a great deal of visibility. I have also in the past written for blogs at the New York Times and other publications.
But I have never had an experience of this kind of response. It is as if reading my words unlocked thousands of other people to express themselves on the relevant issues.
As a teacher, and as a writer, I have always tried to provoke into further thought and discussion. I have never had an experience quite like this.
I thank Aaron for inviting me to offer thoughts here from time to time. While I may currently be out of the classroom, things that affect learning and education and teaching still occupy a great portion of my waking hours, and i will be honored to share ideas with and learn from those who frequent this site.