Driving down from Philadelphia to Washington, DC (my home for three plus years during the early 90s), I reminisced about the numerous rallies and protest marches I attended during my years in DC. The night before driving down, I rummaged through our tech drawer trying to find the digital video camera because I wanted to be able to zoom up to 60x rather than the 12x we have on our “regular” digital camera.
Thinking about the rallies from the '90s, I recalled using my knowledge of the National Mall to try and get as close as possible to the stage and upon doing so thinking I was really lucky to be this close; there are thousands of people behind me who can’t see anything on the stage. Hence I thought to bring my video camera in anticipation of at least 100,000 folks attending the Save Our Schools March this past weekend. Unfortunately, or so I thought, I couldn’t find the charge cord. Fortunately I didn’t need the video camera with the 60x zoom, because unlike the previous rallies/marches I attended which include the 1992’s March for Women’s Rights, 1993’s March for LGB (before the T was added) Equal Rights Liberation, and the 30th Anniversary of the March on Washington (where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech), and the 1995’s Million Man March, this teacher’s rally had fewer than 5000 participants.
In the weeks and months leading up to the Rally, based on what I read and saw on Twitter and Facebook, you’d have thought that the Ellipse (smartly the organizers did not hold the rally on the National Mall) would be packed with teachers ready to make social change, armed and ready to “Save Our Schools.” Despite a list of noted speakers any educational conference would die for – Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, and the patron saint of reform to most of this faction of the education reform movement, Dr. Diane Ravitch, even the wattage of this amount of star power couldn’t garner more than 5000 individuals to travel to sweltering Washington DC on one of the hottest days of the year. The first question I had, as I walked towards the stage set up on the Ellipse and the small crowd was where is everyone? Why is this rally so small? I've attended street fair concerts with a larger, more vocal crowd.
A few of the questions I have regarding the Save Our Schools Movement are the following;
1) With such intellectual firepower behind the Movement, why was it so hard to mobilize people, during the summer, to come to Washington to support public schools
2) The position papers advanced on the Save Our Schools March website (www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/resources/position-papers) include such important education reform topics as; better assessments, civics, curriculum, equitable funding, family involvement, high-stakes testing, and unions & collective bargaining. The only thread heard throughout the speakers on the dais on Saturday was ending high-stakes testing. Why is this?
3) Where are the areas that the Administration and this branch of reformers can agree upon and what are the “non-negotiables” for both sides?
My overall impressions of the March and videos of some of the speeches…next time.