Wordling Cody/Ravitch’s Letters to the President

When Diane Ravitch asked that we write letters to President Obama about his education policy, I did so, despite the stacks of awaiting homework.  When Anthony Cody compiled the letters, I had to skim them, again despite the stacks of awaiting homework.  (But when, oh when, does a high school English teacher not have stacks of awaiting homework?)

So then I wondered what Wordle might reveal.  Often, when I am introducing text, I use Wordle to show the main words of the text to provoke a discussion on what the themes and tones might be of the piece.  I have also used Wordle to summarize students’ reactions to units, experiences, and lessons.

In this case, what will a Wordle reveal?   The first two Wordles are from teacher letters, where I would pull random chunks of text from at least five different teacher letters.

Teacher Wordle #1
Teacher Wordle #2

Then I took a third Wordle, this time capturing the entirety of four parent letters.

Parent Wordle

Of all the Wordles, I find the first the most interesting, perhaps because of the words “poverty,” “equipment,” “Medicare,” and “therapists.”  Words that somewhat get to issues that surround teachers in every school every day.
The letters are hard to read, like letter 94, where Mathew Swope talks about how, as a cop, he grew tired of seeing kids hurt and harmed, so he went into teaching, only to find himself as a punching bag, blamed for the societal ills he has spent much of his life trying to fix.
Or letter 100, where Bryan Boutanan writes this, “I read the middle school essays posted on Bulletin Boards at the beginning of the year. Usually the theme is “My Goals”. Instead of writing about becoming an astronaut, a basketball player, a doctor, or an urban ranger these children write about what they can do to become a Level 3 or 4. They no longer think of themselves as people who can aspire to great things. They think of themselves as a number; a number that is artificially created. Is this what you want for your daughters?”

Or letter 143’s, “And while we’re on the subject of music…do you have any idea (or do you care) about what your plan is doing to the arts? Do you understand what standardized tests are doing to phase out music, art, drama, and theater instruction? There is no money left after districts buy these test prep kits, buy the tests, pay to have them corrected, and then schedule children into unnecessary remediation. Do you know that your policies are prejudicial? Do you realize that in many inner city schools, children who score a “1” or a “2” are removed from their specials and forced to sit in test prep?” from Gail Richmond.

Or Jack Cole’s letter 361 where he compares his English school to his old American one: “Testing: In my first month in England I have only taken TWO tests. And if this was America I would have already taken at least twenty. And the tests we take are to help us not the testing companies.”

I am glad I wrote my letter.  I am glad so many wrote letters.  I am simply hoping President Obama listens.


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