Saturday, August 29, 2015

Everyday Advocates - Amy Valens

Why is public education advocacy important to you?
The founders of our country used the motto e pluribus unum: out of many, one. Public schools have been an important vehicle for that idea, allowing the many to know each other, and to grow as one, respecting differences but sharing common understandings of what it means to be part of this democracy. While there is much that needs to be addressed in public schools, the institution still holds the greatest possibilities for shared notions of equality--the basis for a just society.

As an advocate, what accomplishment have you found most satisfying?
The two films that my husband and I have made, August to June: Bringing Life to School, and Good Morning Mission Hill: The Freedom to Teach, The Freedom to Learn, have been used by communities and individuals to show positive examples of what public education can look like when teachers and children are given the support that creates meaningful learning. In this time of standardization and negative portrayals of public education it is extremely satisfying to think we have brought hope to thousands of people who have seen our films on television, or attended a community screening where they were able to meet like minded people and feel less alone...perhaps even empowered to speak up, opt out, or stay engaged in some other way. A growing number of schools of education are using our films as part of teacher training, giving student teachers an experience of non-test-driven public school classrooms that might otherwise not be available to them.

What are some of your frustrations or obstacles that you have met or overcome?
When liberal members of Congress told me that testing would raise poor and minority children out of poverty, I realized the extent of the disconnect between my experience and the powers that be. The misuse of 'data' by news media, corporations, and politicians is boggling, but it couldn't keep parents from eventually recognizing that something was very wrong. It has taken time and many voices being raised, but this year we have seen that change is possible. This is not the time to stop. This is the time to put forward alternatives to the wrong-headed ideas we have been fighting.

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