Tuesday, September 11, 2007

TERC tea party in New Jersey

Contributed by Joan O'Keefe

I am from the Village of Ridgewood in New Jersey. So you may say I am a villager with a pitchfork. That American Gothic image of the farm couple, they would not send their children to your schools. They would demand a practical math education for farmers - needing to learn how to multiple and divide dozens of eggs. But lest I be called a "shopkeeper," let me also invoke the image of our professors of mathematics who will refuse to let their children learn reform math because they know as teachers of mathematics that reform math does not provide the proper foundation for higher level mathematics, the sciences or engineering.

My friends you may not know this, but you are witnessing the first shot of the revolution. With this speech, I begin the revolt of the parents of the children in your schools against all forms of reform math.

I am here not to petition you or to plea with you, but to tell you , I/We will refuse to allow our children to be taught in this ridiculous way. I/We will not be intimidated by your PhDs in Education, I represent the thousands of parents who have achieved great success with traditional math education and are the generation of proof that it works. We will begin to send back your silly TERC books, filled with only simple answers derived using standard algorithms. We will instruct our children to refuse to draw pictures, not to write math stories and to call it an "equation" with symbols rather than the silly "math sentence." If you have the audacity to chide them for using REAL math, we will come down to the school en masse and picket with large signs that say NO MORE BAD MATH or JUST SAY NO TO TERC, MATH IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.

You can decide to allow reform math to continue, but you will find us, your customers and clients, no longer cooperative. We will throw out the TERC2 and CMP2 workbooks and send our children in with traditional texts. Our children will become so smart, they will teach the teachers.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for parents to dissolve the ties which have connected them with their child's public school a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We will boycott Pearson Publishing and its subsidiaries until its salespeople stop pushing reform math programs on our schools based on weak and laughable research. We will boycott the schools that use reform math and we will inform every minority group that they are getting substandard mathematics education compare to their contemporaries.

Welcome to history, welcome to the beginning of the parental revolution, welcome to the beginning of the day when the public was put back in public education. Let this be our declaration of independence and the start of our revolutionary war.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all children are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that primary among our children's rights is the right to an adequate and true education. Within that right, there shall be included a strong mathematical education.

A math education defined by mathematicians rather than educators and includes the following tenets. 1) Our schools should focus on math programs on the basis of their content and from hereon pedagogy will driven by the clear detailed well documented mathematical content. 2) A math program should include a logical sequencing of topics, honoring the scholarly subject entitled mathematics. 3) A quality math program will not include for any grade other than Kindergarten the use of scissors, glue, paperclips, M&M or any other object that is now defined as a manipulative and acceptable for exceeding assessment benchmarks. No, our children will have the high and honorable goal of a math program desiring them to use the abstract symbols and language of mathematics. 4) A quality math program will emphasize the learning of necessary math facts & standard algorithms. 5) The math program should use the proper language of mathematics and not invent new unnecessary or watered down terms.

We the parents of the children in the public education system are not happy. These are our children whose educational fate you decide. Shame on those of you for not including the educated parents of this country in this debate; shame on those of you for having 48 speakers and only three of them parents; and shame on those of you for ignoring parents concerns, for it is OUR children who will be known as the LOST Mathematical Generation, OUR children who will not be able to make change without a calculator, OUR CHILDREN who in their elementary years are being limited in their future by reform maths limitation of its teachings. It is our children you doom and it is done without even giving a PARENT THE CHOICE FOR THE CHILD.

Thomas Jefferson's vision of public education would NOT have included drawing circles to add and subtract. Jefferson would be angered when he saw mathematics taught with scissors and glue. Jefferson would be irate when he saw that educators dismiss the outcries of parents. Jefferson would weep at the thought that his dear United States of America would lose an entire generation of its educated society because a British publisher wanted to make more money selling manipulatives with programs like TERC and CMP than selling real textbooks. Just as patriots broke open tea chests and heaved them into Boston harbor, with other patriots at other seaports following that example and staging similar acts of resistance, so too should parents be be throwing TERC2 and CMP2 workbooks into a harbor or river or recycling bin - our very own Boston tea party.

We, the parents, will ultimately triumph because it is Our children, not children of the state or education system. And for OUR children, their education is more important and held more dearly than any social, political, economical, or ideological agenda.

It is on the shoulders of parents across this nation, that a generation of children will not be lost in their math education. And those that recognize this and stand in recognition will provide to the future of this great nation, mathematically capable citizens to lead us throughout the 21st century. And that success will be none for reform math.

Written by Joan O'Keefe of the Village of Ridgewood, New Jersey and published here with her permission. She is a member of a parent group opposing TERC and CMP in her child's school district. Their web site is http://www.vormath.info/. Her opinions are her own and we welcome discussion of the issues she raises.


Debby McMillen said...

WOW! I wish I could grab her as a motivational speaker. What more can you say?

Anonymous said...

wow, that's a phenomenal adaptation. And lots of good ideas, too :))

agassel said...

BRAVO! I have been ringing this same bell here in the St. Louis suburbs. Parents need to start questioning the school boards, "WHY did you adopt this particular program when fairly simple research into it shows that many many other school systems who tried it have dropped it because it was an abysmal failure?" May I suggest we start following the money. Who is benefitting from using this particular method/text? Then we need to ask, "Exactly how much are you willing to sell out children's education for?"