Saturday, May 17, 2008

With Apologies to Doctor King

At WERA in March month Dean Fink, keynote presenter, made a comparison between the civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the standards movement of today. I was curious, so I went to a secret underground library at OSPI to do some research, and I was shocked to find this previously undiscovered yet eerily prescient speech that Dr. King never had a chance to give. I present it to you here for posterity’s sake.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from giving seniors the math WASL for the 5th time. Some of you have come from districts where your quest for excellence left you battered by the storms of standardization and deflated by the ignominy that is canned curriculum. You have been the veterans of stifled creativity. Continue to work with the faith that TRS will provide for you in the end.

Go back to Spokane, go back to Stehekin, go back to Ridgefield, go back to Shoreline, go back to the Twin Cities and the Tri-Cities and the Emerald City, knowing that through legislative fiat this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair—let us build a Sylvan Learning Center there for the districts that are in the third stage of failing AYP.

I say to you today, my teachers, so even though we face a long series of difficult days that blend into difficult weeks, and even though the year is long but the hours are short, I still have a GLE. It is a GLE deeply rooted in the EALRs, and it is a GLE that all Washington students share. Allow me to tell you about my GLE.

I have a GLE from math, that one day our standards will rise up and live out their true potential: to be equal to the standards of Massachusetts and California, which are much higher than our own.

I have a GLE for reading, that one day on the wide plains of Lincoln County the sons of Almira and of Coulee-Hartline will be able to sit down together in a classroom and read a passage and make inferences from that passage and write about them.

I have a GLE for science that one day even a screwed up hellhole like Rochester, a district withering under a plague of methamphetamine, strapped by a long series of levy failures, will be transformed into an oasis of hypotheses and controlled experiments and independent variables.

I have a GLE so that one day any one of our children will be able to attend a school where their chance for success will not be a function of the color of their skin but of the content of their character.

I have a GLE today.

Let GLEs ring from the snowcapped Cascades of Grant County!

Let GLEs ring from the amber waves of Whitman County!

But not only that; let GLEs ring from the fogbanks of Olympia, the bars of Ballard, and the overpriced hotel rooms of Long Beach!

From every county, let GLEs ring!

And when this happens, when we allow GLEs to ring, when we let them ring from every 2B school and consolidated school district, from every 4A powerhouse where the high school has more kids than several towns put together, we will be able to speed up that day when all of Washington’s children, black kids and white kids, low-SES or high-SES, free lunch or brown bag, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank Bergeson Almighty, we are free at last!”

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