“Get ready to get stomped on.”

To be completely honest, when I submitted my post on SFER, I was not expecting the responses I’ve been getting (I know some of the wise ones are probably thinking, How could you not think that?). Nor did I expect to receive about 1,500 views in one day or for Diane Ravitch to have the time to read it. But just like it’s been since the very beginning, blogging has led to non-stop wake up calls.

Moving forward, the attacks on my post have been great. Great as in, I’m being challenged on what I believe in and forced to consider what I was advocating for. As I mentioned various times before, I grew up just accepting that other people were always right and that I was wrong one. Although I have gained much more confidence than I had 7 months ago, it’s still novel to me taking on “attacks.” It’s also hard for me to stay rational when I’m speaking on what I’m passionate about–something I hope (need) to get better at as I move forward with my activism and my future career. Whenever I get heated and caught in the moment, Coetzee’s quote always comes to mind:

“I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the damned, the sheep and the goats.”

But, to get to the main point of this post. A lot of responses on this post, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, seem to be accusing me of the same things. In response, I thought I’d make my longer response a separate post to clarify these concerns and any confusions.

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POSTED BY JONATHAN JEFFREY | AUGUST 6, 2012, 7:19 PM

As a fellow student, I find it great to see that other students are getting involved with the education reform debate. However, I have to say that your words leave me troubled. (Before I go forward, let me say that I am not currently a member of SFER, nor have I been in the past.)

Your assertion seems to be that SFER is not looking out for education equity but, rather, is simply an organization helping involved parents ensure access to better schools for their kids. This is pretty outlandish. SFER is working towards reforming education to include more assessment and accountability at ALL schools. While you may think that accountability is somehow bad, that’s a different debate. You can’t however say that it’s only fighting for charter schools, when it’s not.

Your logic is also based around the fact that corporate icons serve on SFER’s board and that SFER was created by 2 Princeton students, and that, therefore, this means that SFER is only looking out for a corporate or elitist view of education. Let me address these one at a time:

First, merely having executives on a board does not mean that the members are fighting for the interests of the corporations during their service on the board. A Proctor & Gamble executive serves on the board of the United Way. Does this mean that the United Way is somehow a bad organization? Absolutely not.

Second, attending Princeton does not mean that you don’t look out for the social good of an education system, nor does it mean that you came from an elitist upbringing yourself. Sure, does Princeton have kids from Andover who had it a little easier getting in? Probably. But I think it’s totally unfair to blame ALL the people at these schools as having been born with silver spoons in their mouths. I’ll be attending an “Ivy League” school this coming year, but I came from a school that sends only about 20% onto a four year college, and I know some others (although not many, hence why I’m passionate about education equity issues) who are leaving lesser performing secondary schools and attending some of America’s great schools.

Also, to respond to the KIPP argument. That’s sort of ludicrous, too. Yes, KIPP is structured, and I’m sure some kids get upset with it from time to time. But posting their twitter rants isn’t really great evidence to show that they HATE their schools. Afterall, in most cases, it was their (or their parents’ choice) to go there.

Again, I applaud you in your attempt to express your views. But I think that, for the most part, you are very wrong.

POSTED BY STEPHRRIVERA | AUGUST 6, 2012, 7:47 PM

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, as well as submitting such a thorough and honest response.

There are a few things I am going to address.

1. Yes, I see where providing parents a choice to choose what school their child goes to seems like a good idea. Like having the choice of what doctor we choose to see, we all want the choice of what’s good. Why would anyone want a bad doctor, let alone, a bad school? So, please, just pause and think about that for a second. No one wants a bad school. But under law (please correct me if I am wrong, I am not a political science major), but isn’t equal opportunity supposed to be guaranteed? And again, correct me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t having a quality education the base to such opportunity to succeed? Isn’t learning the basic skills to write effectively, learn 21st century skills, access to pens, paper, books, etc. something needed to help students excel–heck–help students to just survive? Why should parents have to worry about if their students will be learning those basic necessities? Why should that even have to be a concern for parents and students’ in today’s day and age. It shouldn’t. As I said, getting a child into a quality school should not have to depend on luck, zip code, etc. Parents shouldn’t be so afraid of having a child because they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford to live in a district in which the school will address their needs. Please, do not get me wrong, I see the good intentions here, I honestly do. But believing that it is SFER and charter schools that are the ultimate solution to “closing the gap” is, “quite outlandish” if you ask me. From what I’ve studied through my blogging and research, through education courses, and working with under-served students, we cannot depend on schools alone to close the gaps. Poverty has to be looked at, and it has to be seriously battled.

2. I am not pointing out these two girls because they are from Princeton. I know a few people in Ivy League schools, and they are absolutely wonderful. Two who come from impoverished backgrounds, I know that not all Ivy League students are wealthy. But that’s not why I pointed out these two girls. From my standpoint of a student who also believes in educational equity issues as they do, I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to literally drop out of school–or do what they do, “put their education on hold”–and go into these high-needs area. But when I suggested this concern to my various professors, you know what they said? They said I need to learn first. I need to become experienced in what I want to fix. I cannot just let words on paper or in a book be the source of my motives, because that would be, “quite outlandish.” They suggested I am too young and too inexperienced to go out there and battle the issues in our education system, regardless of the evident passion I have. They ultimately said, if I want to make a serious change, learn what I am going to be battling first and do NOT drop out of school and ignorantly go into the field. I am sorry, but from what I understand, these two young ladies (who I am sure do have good intentions), do not know enough to be gearing SFER. Would you trust two med students who did just a few years of schooling, put their edu on hold, to go all of a sudden be a credible source to cure diseases?

3. On KIPP schools, I agree. Tweets are not enough of a credible source, which is why I posted the additional articles. But what I was aiming with by getting the Tweets, is that those are students genuine outsource of their opinions. Sure, I could have easily messaged them and asked them, but don’t you think those answers would have been a little biased? My aim with getting Tweets was getting something honest. I’ll look into how I can possibly get something more honest than that for you.

4. I am not simply attacking the corp holders of SFER or the organizers\leaders of SFER, I am attacking the SFER’s threat to the progress of educational equity and students’ voice. As I mentioned, I work alongside some incredible students. Their passion and drive to make a change fuels me to no end. I wish that you could understand how threatening it is to be at the point where we are. As a future educator and a student who works with students, my main goal is to empower students, to make sure their voices and concerns are heard. There are not enough words in the dictionary to express how threatening it is to know there is another “student voice” that could easily silence and outrace us because they have the perks to do so. It’s unfair and it goes against everything I believe in with not only empowering student voices, but humanity equality, and social justice. Our voices count too–don’t they? Why should those students’ voices be more valuable than ours?

I believe I addressed the issues you brought up, and I really do appreciate and respect your opinion–I love when my opinions are challenged. It’s the only way to really learn, and I’m interested in what opposing viewpoints have to say.

Let me know if I missed anything, or if anything isn’t clear. And if you come up with more arguments, please send them my way.

Take Care,

Stephanie Rivera

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4 thoughts on ““Get ready to get stomped on.”

  1. Greetings from a European Education and English student.
    First of all, I admire your passion and drive, I must say you have motivated me to engage in similar activities.

    I wanted to point out that social class issue is a huge problem and we should strive for educational equity. But, we live in a meritocracy and people who possess the means to make things easier to their kids will use those means. The problem runs very deep, let me just mention the inflation of diplomas, various hidden curricula, political and corporate interests. That’s why I share your concerns regarding corporations getting involved, I doubt they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. I also seriously doubt that silver spoon fed Ivy League students will do much. Ivy Leaguers have more means to influence the public, they could’ve done something by now.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that intellectual elites should be determined by equality, i.e. no head starts for anyone. It just so happens that the rich are more equal. I just want to encourage you, the fight for educational equality is long and hard. In my opinion, there are two major problems:
    1. countries have been cutting school budgets, simply put: there’s not enough money in the system
    2. teachers are underrated, disrespected, underpaid and neglected, very few pragmatic intelligent people will work for such a pay unless they truly love the job
    I seriously doubt that the state will combat the poverty issue, I think that communities should be encouraged to take matters into their own hands. Improvement and incentive on the local level should be the emphasis. Give the schools freedom, open up the curriculum, help them forge their own identity.

    This brings me to my next point. How could they compete with the KIPP kids? The system is built for that kind of education i.e. the mass production of fact guzzling robots rapped up lingustically nice title. ”Knowledge” is power, what kind of knowledge? I’m generally against such generic systems which are just feeding the problem called ”the lack of competence after graduation”. The fact that their students do well in the existing system means nothing to me since I think this system is terribly flawed, still hanging on to the factory-like production system. I don’t know, I just admire Scandiavian countries.

    I have a lot of things to say but I won’t go berserk, I’d be happy to excgange opinions with you.

    As for Jonathan’s post, I will only say that the ”not all of them are like that” kind of argument is irrelevant, misses the point and lacks depth this matter demands.

  2. Pingback: Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on an SFER Student Panel « Teacher Under Construction

  3. Pingback: I Am A Student, and I Stand Against Students For Education Reform (SFER) « Teacher Under Construction

  4. Pingback: An SFER Chapter that gives me hope « Teacher Under Construction

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