One day in October of 2011, I went down to Zuccotti Park to listen to what the Occupy Wall Street people were saying about education. They had a circle going, moderated by a couple of people from Columbia Teachers College and a member of the NYC City Council was handing out his card. It was nice to hear the passion of the speakers, but nobody really seemed to know as much as they felt. I walked around the group, peeking in, listening, and watching the others paying attention but hanging back.
One of these, a man a little older than I, seemed to be taking especial care to hear each person’s words. He, I decided, on absolutely no evidence, was probably the most interesting and perhaps the most knowledgeable person there.
I introduced myself and asked if we could exchange information, networking a bit toward what I hoped would one day become a great movement against the test-centric education “reform” movement and its No Child Left Behind and Race To the Top. The man said his name was Mark Naison; I’ve been watching him ever since.
What Occupy Wall Street was not, in terms of education, The Badass Teachers Association (BAT), co-founded by Naison a year ago, is fast becoming. And his book, Badass Teachers Unite!, will be released in June. The event will surely kick the movement up another level.
Naison, a historian, is Chair of the African and African-American Studies Department at Fordham University. That, though, is but one of his many activities. A long-time political activist and champion of civil rights, he has turned his attention to turning back the tide of “reform” that is threatening to wreck one of the greatest achievements of the United States, its public schools. He is a public intellectual of a type rarely seen, a scholar who can also laugh.
Perhaps I am jumping the gun, writing about the book so long before its publication date (I have an advance copy), but Naison’s concerns are also my own. They are concerns that should be shared by all members of the higher-education community and not just by those connected to our public schools. Our incoming students are already showing signs of “reform” influence in their growing inability to grapple with college work. At the same time, our administrators are beginning to impose “reform”-type gobbledygook (Student Learning Outcomes, for example) on us—with more to come.
In a month or so, I will write more specifically about the book. Right now, I am asking those who share our doubts about the “reform” movement in American education to order the book—if for no other reason than to help build interest in the BATs movement of resistance to the “reform” movement, its emphasis on testing, its denigration of teachers, its removal of local control from public education, and more.
You won’t be disappointed. From what I’ve read of the book these last few days, it is going to prove a valuable resource.
The book can be ordered from Haymarket.