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[Susan notes: Carl Chew makes the important links to active citizenry in a democracy, pointing out that these students have participated in something that can empower them for the rest of their lives.]

Published in
05/23/2008

Dear Joel Klein

jklein@schools.nyc.gov

Rumor has it that the teacher, Doug Avella, whose students boycotted the test is about to be fired. If this is true, I would like to ask you to please reconsider. There are so many reasons to celebrate this teacher and the students in his class. Here is just one:

Hooray, they have broken the apathy barrier! Right or wrong (and weren't we there ourselves once?), right or wrong they have actually done something which will empower them for the rest of their lives. Will these students be among the 40 percent who do not vote? I bet not. Will they only look to others to take care of them? I doubt it. Will they go out into the world with excitement in their hearts and minds because they did something? Definitely.

Consider for a moment the course they may take if you fire this brave teacher. They will be given the message that it is not worth it to try. They may feel that peaceful resistance is ineffective. They may decide to let the achievement gap widen on their account to pay back a system which misunderstood and devalued them.

What do I know about this? I am the teacher who recently in Seattle refused to administer our state's test. Luckily, my district saw fit to only suspend me for two weeks. My place is in the classroom and so is your rebellious teacher's. Please show some wisdom and courage, and pay attention to your student's voices and the voices of concern from people who are supporting them and your teacher.

Sincerely,

Carl Chew
6th grade science
Eckstein Middle School
Seattle, WA

Carl Chew


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