Dear Bill and Melinda,
There is a disease in public education. Some of us are now addicted to corporate education reform. For those wondering how to tell whether you are suffering from this disease, we recommend the following self-assessment:
A definite diagnosis of dependence should usually be made only if three or more of the following have been experienced or exhibited at some time during the previous year:
- a strong desire or sense of compulsion to implement corporate education reforms rather than follow your own philosophy of education, ethical practice, and social justice in your classroom;
- difficulties in controlling corporate education reformy high stakes testing, standardization, or rigor-like behaviors in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use;
- a physiological withdrawal state when corporate education reform practices and high stakes-testing use has ceased or been reduced, as evidenced by: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for corporate education reforms; or use of the same (or a closely related) practice with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms;
- evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of testing, standardization, and rigor are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses;
- progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests such as art, music, movement, play, real world experiential learning, etc. because of testing, standardization, and rigor use, increased amount of time necessary to obtain or take the test or to recover from its effects;
- persisting with standardization, rigor or high stakes testing use despite clear evidence of overtly harmful consequences, such as depressive mood states consequent to periods of heavy testing use, or testing-related impairment of cognitive functioning; efforts should be made to determine that the user was actually, or could be expected to be, aware of the nature and extent of the harm.
For those teachers who feel they have experienced 3 or more of the symptoms above, we recommend that they begin our 12 step program of recovery.
We have begun an important journey of recovery from corporate education reform through this process of writing our letters to you. Many are leaving the profession due to an illness that has become so chronic that it is leading to the symptoms described above. We feel powerless over our own profession.
Teachers across the world are hitting rock bottom.
In the last century, Aldous Huxley called Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous’ founder, “the greatest social architect of our time.” One thing that makes Bill Wilson’s organization so successful is that it isn’t hierarchical. It is comprised of sufferers from all walks of life who just want to recover and live a better life. They come together to share their stories, and in doing so, they motivate and inspire one another to keep going.
In reclaiming our teaching profession and our schools, we have adapted the 12 Steps of Recovery to address our particular afflictions that result from corporate education reform.
The 12 Steps to Recovery for Teachers Under the Influence of Corporate Education Reform:
1. We admitted we were powerless over corporate education reform—that our teaching, our professions, and our philosophies of teaching for the whole child had become unmanageable. We admitted we had become TESTERS, not TEACHERS.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. We are many, the corporate reformers are few. We found our voice and our power in numbers.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives back to the care of whole children through resistance and ethical education, for democracy and social justice for all.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. We determined that we had allowed corporate reformers to undermine our ethics and integrity. We searched and found we had participated in unethical scripted instruction, standardization, and high stakes testing out of fear and oppression that in turn caused fear and oppression in our students.
5. We admitted to the Corporate Powers, to our federal, state, and local politicians, to ourselves, to our fellow teachers, to our administrators, to the parents of our students, and to our students the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We are entirely ready to stop these unethical actions as TESTERS and will work with other teachers to de-program in order to remove all these defects of character. We are entirely ready to de-program our children from the effects of our unethical actions.
7. We humbly ask the public to forgive our past shortcomings. We forgive ourselves and each other for participating in Corporate Education Reform.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continue to take personal inventory of all our teaching practices and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We sought through collaboration and meditation to improve our conscious contact with social justice educators and to teach our children how to resist in order to prevent corporate education reform from ever taking control over our public education system again.
12. Having had an educational awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to all others oppressed by corporate education reform, and to practice these principles in and out of all of our classrooms.
We now embark on the process of recovery from this devastating disease that is killing public education. As we take the first steps, we ask others to join us in reclaiming our profession:
- Hi, I am Susan DuFresne, and I admit that I am powerless over corporate education reform and that my teaching, my profession, and my philosophies of teaching for the whole child have become unmanageable. I admit that I have become a TESTER, not a TEACHER.
- Hi, I am Katie Lapham, and I admit that I am powerless over corporate education reform and that my teaching, my profession, and my philosophies of teaching for the whole child have become unmanageable. I admit that I have become a TESTER, not a TEACHER.
All teachers under the influence of corporate education reform are welcome to join us. Let the Testers Anonymous meetings begin.
Perhaps the corporate reformers need their own 12 steps… but that is your personal inventory, Bill and Melinda. Have you considered taking one lately?
Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates