Some photos and commentary from yesterday’s Save Our Schools rally on the ellipse in DC

I attended the Save Our Schools rally on 12-30-2011  here in Washington, DC, for about 2 or 3 hours, but didn’t stay until the march itself.¤ Here are a few of the photos I took with my phone.

This first one was taken roughly between noon and 1 pm, from somewhere in the middle of the crowd, looking towards the stage where speakers were speaking and performing. You can see there was even a large video screen where we could see the speaker, enlarged and voice-amplified.

(I’ve never experienced a large screen at any protest rally that I agreed with before. It was a good feature. Perhaps my not seeing the good guys use one merely dates me, or perhaps my own small donation was used wisely, and we can actually think about beating the billionaires and the right-wing politicians at their own game. Our side doesn’t generally have billions of dollars to spend on campaigns…)

Jonathan Kozol was one of the speakers, I found out right AFTER his speech. I was talking to some other DC teachers that I hadn’t seen for a long time, and not really listening to the speaker. (We’ve all done that, right?)

I had no idea who was the smallish, older white guy on stage, speaking with a sort of New York accent. I noticed out of the corner of my eye and hearing that he definitely spoke with force and conviction. Right after he stopped speaking, and during a large round of applause, I asked the other teachers who he was. They told me, “Jonathan Kozol.” I felt kind of embarrassed, because I’ve read a fair amount of stuff written by him over the past 40 years, but had never heard him speak or even saw a photo of him. By not listening, I had just blown an opportunity to hear what he had to say on a totally current topic. I’m still glad I talked to the other teachers, though.

It would be great if Kozol or someone like him could get a regular broadcast gig≈ so that there would be at least somebody to counteract the Ann Coulterses and other right-wing Fox commentators that seem to dominate the news. I know there are some folks on the media who are opposed, but they are (in my mind) either a bit too frivolous at times (eg John Stewart of The Daily Show or Steven Colbert) or need coaching on “presence”, speaking, and use of humor (eg Ellen Goodman of Democracy Now). IMHO.

Here is a sign about that:

Perhaps a video of the entire speaking list will be posted on-line. I hope so; some of the speeches and performances were quite decent.

Demonstrators had been urged to make signs; there were lots of them, and I saw some very large interesting banners being put together, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying, since I only saw smallish pieces of them. If anybody knows of any photos of the banners as they were actually used during the march, I’d like to know where to find and view them.

One of the many signs, this one about the general importance of education:

Another crowd shot, below.

No, that’s not a balloon; it’s me, finding an extremely original way of inserting myself into the scene. Actually, the word ‘original’ should probably be preceded by the prefix “un”. Am I failing to eschew sufficient obfuscation here? (kidding)♠

Journalism majors and would-be or experienced news photographers: Is this next photo what they would call an example of photo-blogging with an obvious political slant?  (again, just a joke)

Just in case you can’t quite make out the next sign, I think it says, “THE CHARTER SCHOOL MOVEMENT IS A CORPORATE TAKEOVER!” and “Tax the Rich”. I can’t figure out the drawing and can’t remember what it was supposed to be.

I really liked the sign with the infamous Microsoft Windows Office Paper Clip.

If you don’t get the connection: Bill Gates, owner of Microsoft and probably the single wealthiest person in the entire planet, has been using his billions to change educational policy in this country in ways that most educators see as seriously wrong and dangerous. Even he now admits that much of his money has been a total waste.

Our only internal disagreement among SOS folks on that fact is that some of us think that Gates and the other handful of educational billionaires are sincere but misguided, while others of us think that these corporate profiteers are apparently ruining education in this country precisely for their own selfish (or class, that is, the ruling class) interests: Class warfare of the richest against almost everybody else. Which is what many of us see in the current, all-out attack on public schools and their teachers, and labor in general. We see the current trends of grading schools by a stupid multiple-choice test is condemning the vast majority of inner-city and poor rural and minority students to an inferior, narrowed-down education that emphasizes conformity and docility above all else while stripping out recess, the arts, music, social studies, hands-on science, and anything else that isn’t currently measurable with those profit-making tests. Meanwhile Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and Obama’s own kids all go or went to fancy, expensive private schools with lots of extracurricular activities and which emphasize authentic experiences and creative thinking, and whose curriculum is not driven at all by any of those punitive NCLB/RTTT tests.

I also made some signs as well, but I forgot to take photos of them. I think one of them read something like what you see above, in black letters on an orange background.

One of my two other signs simply quoted the section of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution that deals with the current debt crisis. The applicable words of the Amendment read as shown in purple, with my own conclusion in green at the end. Again, I don’t exactly remember what I wrote, but the sentiment was about what you see below.

14th Amendment:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”

Tax the Rich to Pay the Debt to Preserve Public Education!

I eventually gave my signs all away, but before I left I collected literature, buttons, and a T-shirt from vendors and people giving some of them away. 


¤It was really hot, among other things, and I was planning on going out all night, that night, to do some astronomy in the hills to our west, and needed to pack and nap.♥

≈I have no idea how much I would agree with what he might say today. I haven’t kept up much with his writings, and we all change. But it is better to have some sort of public opposition to right-wing lunacy than none at all.

♠Translation into plain Americanese: “This is a joke, where I am attempting to poke some fun at myself for putting my finger in front of the lens. The humor is in that I used words that are actually correct, but not likely to be understood unless you have a pretty big and academic English vocabulary. Since you are obviously reading this on something like a computer, if it amuses you to do so, you can look up what they mean, if you don’t already know. Having that sort of vocabulary helps you get a cup of coffee, if you also happen to have about four dollars. [that’s another joke!] Some research seems to indicate that knowing big words also helps with job or school interviews, but is not always helpful on the job.”

♥Unexpected clouds rolled in, so I got back home to DC and to sleep before 3AM.


I mis-remembered and wrote “Alfie Kohn” instead of “Jonathan Kozol” yesterday. It was almost definitely JK, not AK. — GFB

Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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