June 19, 2024

One Proud Uncle

My nephew Mathew is a terrific 13 year-old with lots of interests and much to my chagrin, he loves school. In fact, he has never missed a day of school despite schools undeserving of his loyalty. He lives in NJ and is a good student.

I just received the following unsolicited email from Mathew. I haven’t spoken with him in several months due to travel and anyone with children will understand how difficult it is to get a kid to correspond via email. That’s what makes the passion of his email message a delightful surprise that is at once heartwarming and heart-breaking.

I have not touched a character in Mathew’s message to me. He gave me permission to publish it. Feel free to share your love in via comments below.

(Note: The NJ ASK is the NJ New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge)


by Mathew M.

The charming governer of New Jersey has just launched some new laws regarding education. From what I heard, he is paying teachers based on how well kids do on the NJ ASK. What?! I don’t know if Christie knows this, but the teachers already feed us this garbage so we do well on the test. Now that it affects their pay, we will learn NOTHING but the junk for the test. Nothing. What happened to education? This is not education. The only education we are getting is how to take a standardized test. Does the government honestly believe that standardized tests will get us into Harvard or Yale? That we will become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs? What about the special-education teachers? Will they get payed less because their students are bound to flunk the NJ ASK? Something needs to be done about this. This goes right to Washington. We NEED to get rid of standardized tests.

20 thoughts on “One Proud Uncle

  1. Watching this debate from Australia very closely. This has been unfolding for years and now Australia is following the same footsteps. Crazy stuff. This must be looked at in the context of broader societal issues. Teachers can’t fix everything that’s broken, neither can governments, neither can big business throwing millions and billions around. This is an INTENT problem – fuelled particularly by the media. Just watch what’s happening politically in US and OZ right now. The move to collaborative responsibility is painful. Whatever happened to personal and societal responsibility for everyone?

  2. Matthew,

    We need to hear more student voices, like yours. It’s YOUR future that’s being decided and you have the right to not only express your opinion, but to have it valued and acted upon.

    Please consider contributing to Stephanie Sandifer’s survey and spreadsheet, which you can access via her blog posting: http://www.ed421.com/?p=1477

    What you have to say is important.

  3. I totally agree with Julie and yes I’m another Aussie. Preparing for tests is coming in big time. Who has time for inquiry learning it’s not on the test. Back to the 60 s teaching. Kids drop out rates will climb. I wonder why? More students need to use their voice and speak out like Mathew.
    Something that’s not spoken about also is the number of kids who don’t care about the test and actually try to fail to beat the system. (middle school)
    Thx Gary and Mathew for sharing this email.

  4. Amen Matthew! Well stated. As a former classroom and specialist teacher in Philadelphia, as well as, the mother of two very different New Jersey middle school students, I couldn’t agree with you more. Governor Christies law is promoting nothing more than cookie cutter teaching. I applaud your efforts to speak out on the behalf of all the students who will be impacted the most by these new laws.

  5. Tell Matthew he’s not alone (although he probably already knows that). Some of our students just had a fishbowl discussion in a social studies class where they basically said the same thing – if things continue the way they are, you’re not helping us learn, you’re teaching us to jump through hoops.

  6. I don’t live in New Jersey, and at this point I am very glad I do not teach there. Please support Matthew in his quest to become a legislator when he grows up so that he can make policy that supports learning.

  7. Thank you for all of your support! I only wish the students I know cared a little more. Last year, we had a protest against Christie’s budget cuts. Though it didn’t work out, because half the kids just wanted an excuse to cut class. The administrators made us return inside, but the few who stayed out that truly did care were given detentions. If I didn’t know better I’d have a protest again. And my teachers would join me.

  8. Matthew is a most astute 13 year old with an understanding far beyond his years. I never quite understood the purpose of those standardized tests. How well a student takes a standardized test is no indication of that student’s learning. Don’t hear those complaints from students at Independent schools. I expect to hear great things about Matthew in the future.

  9. Dear Matthew, Can you please say this loud and more often? Also, it would be great if you could get all the kids that agree with you together. Then all of you could say it louder and more often until the adults started listening. Make them listen to you, please. You are absolutely right. The email to Uncle Gary was perfectly written and to the heart of the problem with your education. This letter is a good start! Keep going! My name us Marcie, I am a teacher and I am listening. Thank you.

    Gary, thanks for posting this your nephew is inspirational.

  10. Mathew,

    You are wise beyond your years. You understand what the legislators don’t get. I agree with you, learning material so you can do well on a standardized test is not the learning that you need for the future. I also most commend you for recognizing the issues that the teachers of children with disabilities face in trying to get their students test ready. Often, the politicians don’t take the challenges of these children into consideration.
    Good luck to you as your further your education. Perhaps you should consider a career in educational policy; you’d bring a fresh perpective to the mix!

  11. Matthew, by writing those few words, you’ve shared it with adults who are listening and are sure to share it with their colleagues. The hard part is doing what Marcie asks above. Keep doing it. If you get detention for it, say so even louder. Thanks for raising your voice to the nonsense.

  12. Good on you Matthew.
    It’s refreshing to hear a student ‘s voice on this issue. It is a pity that the mainstream media has been so standardised that they only seek the opinions of politicians and “experts” with vested interests in maintaining a standardised society. It is about time the opinions of the real experts, those at the coal-face of education, the students and teachers, were given a greater voice in the debate.
    Standardised testing produces standard, compliant students who grow to be standardised citizens, which is to the advantage of those in power.
    Congratulations on resisting their efforts to standardise you and showing that kids today don’t want to be standard, they want to and can be exceptional.

  13. So what are “you” going to do about it “Matthew?”

    There are 310 million people in the USA. Almost a third of the people in the United States of America are between the ages of 0-17. That’s a heck of a lot a people with the same rights as the adults that have been trying to change education for the last 25 years. You might not get to cast your vote until you are 18…but that could change too if “people” wanted it to. How can you influence change?

    In my humble opinion, “you” hold an extraordinary amount of power in influence. The power to cause change, to effect the economic factors of the adults that guide and influence your development. If you feel your interests are not being met there are other ways to sway opinion besides just casting a vote.

    Thanks for joining the discussion, we need more…


  14. Mathew
    That was a great post. I don’t think I could have said it better. Thus type of change is difficult but there are educators who believe the same thing as you do. Keep it up!!

  15. Matthew, you have a very good understanding of the situation, especially where it concerns special needs students, and how these policies would affect education in this state.

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