Fawned over by the would-be glitterati, Matt Damon’s speech to the Save Our Schools rally in DC received wide accolades as a clear-headed, common-sense speech that spoke to Everyteacher.
There are transcripts all over the internet, but here is a summary followed by a question from the TV audience.
First Mr. Damon tells us to what great lengths he has gone so he can share his message in person.
Next, he tells us he went to public schools and had great teachers and great parenting.
He then claims that his most highly valued qualities –“my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing,…” – that have brought him so much professional success could never be tested in school.
He recalls taking only one standardized test which prompted his mother, herself a former teacher, to tell the principal, “My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid.”
His speech degenerates into a diatribe against standard testing and how this “has been a horrible decade for teachers.” He says his important message to the rally is that “I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up.” Wow! Really!
He concludes by reminding the unappreciated teachers that there are millions like him who support their efforts. “We love you,” he says.
Good for you Matt. We love you, too.
But now, if we could, let’s hear some sentiments that one might overhear from State Inmate No. 23-84746 who watched the speech on CSPAN. Mr. 84746 may have been the elected spokesman for one of the 25,000 member dropout class of 2008 here in North Carolina. [Mr. 84746’s comments have been translated into Standard English by the author.]
It is very modest for the rich and famous Mr. Damon to extoll his K-12 teachers and credit them for his success. He omits mentioning his years of toil and talent that went into finally producing his success and for which he doesn’t take any credit, whatsoever. It was all his teachers, man, and he loves them. And he hates those standard tests.
Now what am I supposed to think. I’m not allowed to credit my teachers for never teaching me to read because they were required to give me a standardized test? Is that their excuse. “I sorry, 23. You failed your standard reading and math tests in 3rd grade along with 55% of your minority male classmates in the state because I had to give you the test.” Is that what my teacher gets to say?
Well Ms. Teacher, why didn’t you catch me up in the 4th grade? Because you wanted me to automatically learn my math facts without having to resort to a few drills? Mr. Damon claims he wouldn’t be where he is today if his teachers had resorted to “desperately drilling” him. Well maybe with some drilling, I would not be where I am today – and will remain for the next 30 even with good behavior.
Ms. Teacher, my group of low-income males sees the same 55% of failures from third grade who then drop out of high school seven or eight years later because we never learned to read or to do the math. You had K, 1, 2, and 3 to get me ready for the 3rd grade tests. Then you had another half decade to catch me up.
What were you doing all those years? Oh, I see. Like Mr. Damon says you were “encouraging creativity and original ideas,” teaching us to “know who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.” Right on. I sure do appreciate that.
But surely you must wonder why “encouraging creativity” and avoiding “desperate drilling” does not bring success to me and my brothers? Who told you that “encouraging creativity” and avoiding “desperate drilling” was the right thing to do? Who was supposed to train you to teach me and my 25,000 annual non-reading dropout friends how to read?
So do we congratulate, in turn, your teacher, Ms. Teacher? Is Mr. Damon a wealthy star because of the education schools who trained you in “encouraging creativity and original ideas,” who trained you to teach us to “know who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents”? If he says so, it must be so.
But Ms. Teacher, why didn’t they train you to teach me to read? You saw my 3rd grade test results. You knew I could not read or do math. Why did you not then teach me?
If I could read, my time might pass more quickly.