According to organizers, the culminating event of a 4-day call to action was to express the organization's belief that:
As concerned citizens, we demand an end to the destructive policies and rhetoric that have eroded confidence in our public schools, demoralized teachers, and reduced the education of too many of our children to nothing more than test preparation. A well-educated society is essential to the future of the United States of America. Our students must have access to a fully funded, world-class public education system, and it is our responsibility to hold our government accountable for providing the means to achieve it."
Of course, there were speeches, stars, singing, signage, and swigging of bottled water to try to stave off the boiling July heat. In fact, as in all good rallies, the verbiage was as fiery as the temperatures. And while the following posts present the day in more detail, here, in no particular order, are a half-dozen personally chosen high points::
--- Strong support from actor Matt Damon's to the 1,000s assembled
--- A pre-taped message of support from The Daily Show host Jon Stewart which was shown live at the rally on the stage's jumbotron.
--- A delivery by Slam Poet Taylor Mali of his powerful poem "What Teachers Make" Click here for a printed copy of the poem or below to see a previously recorded YouTube version.
--- Noted writer and advocate for education for the poor Jonathan Kozol calling Fox News "sociopaths" for their handling of educational issues and contending that Dr. Martin Luther King would be appalled by the shoddy education offered today in the inner-city and poor rural communities. Dr. King's dream did not call for "kids to pass a test" but for equal educational opportunity for all, Kozol reminded the crowd to thunderous applause.
--- A Houston school superintendent who said "I will not race to the top (a slogan of Arne Duncan and the White House's educational plan). Like the Good Samaritan, I will stop and help those who have fallen by the wayside."
--- Several speakers who transposed the normal mike check "test, test, test" into "no test, no test, no test."
|This I'm a Fan of Public Education cooler provided by the Washington DC Teachers Union was greatly appreciated on a scorching July day.|
But, most of all, it was greatly reassuring to know that while Congress and the Senate diddled and dathered and damned each other a few blocks down the street, I could still join a group of concerned Americans who, with both voices and feet, demonstrated that a moral message can still be delivered. And that is an American civics lesson I hope we never forget.