To Advocate or Not to Advocate - National Council of Teachers of English
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To Advocate or Not to Advocate

The following blog post was written by NCTE Policy Analyst Kristen Nielsen and reflects her own views. You can read her bio here.

NCTE Policy Analyst Kristen Nielsen whose post discusses what it means to be an advocate.—That is the question
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The stings and mandates of edupreneurial lobbyists
Or to take heart against an onslaught of assessments and detrimental dictates
And by opposing end them.

Our students need educators to be politically aware and active: the introverted student striving to find her voice; the insecure student desiring to assert his dissension; the extroverted, opinionated student beginning to listen receptively; the traumatized student realizing her own value; the self-proclaimed “stupid” student valuing his own intellect. Our students need us to use our expertise and our voices to advocate for them. It is not too late.

Two years ago, I was informed by a “professional” staffer that legislators would never care about the food insecurity of children because my “students can’t vote” and my “seven-year-old won’t come to DC to lobby [like the AARP].” Another staffer suggested private schools as the best choice for our nation since public education seems to be such a waste of money. We have testing and textbook companies guiding our nation’s legislation and educational mandates and monopolizing our educational funding. NCLB was accompanied by drastic budget cuts that clearly belied the alleged desire to aid every child. Our nation’s Department of Education is being run by an administrator with no educational experience in a classroom. This managerial model of education in which the funding never seems to trickle down to students continues to damage our public school systems.

However, my students constantly give me hope. Every day in my classroom, I realize that our future can be infinitely brighter than the dystopian novels we are reading. We need to share our students’ successes and advocate for their needs. We can improve education:  individualized attention for students who are not merely crunchable data, smaller class sizes, collaborative opportunities for professional educators, project-based learning in lieu of high-stakes assessments, technology used as a tool not a solution, student-centered learning, the implementation of effective strategies and instruction rather than for-profit programs, critical thinking and engagement. We can choose advocacy instead of fear-induced silence and surrender.

We can reverse this decimation of our public school systems to ensure that every child can and does receive a quality education.

Our deserving students are not failing. Our dedicated teachers are not failing. Our detrimental policies, propaganda, and practices are failing our students and our teachers.

Please join me in advocating for our students.



Kristen Nielsen has taught in the Baltimore County Public School System for 12 years. She earned her B.A. in English Literature and her M.S. in Teaching at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Kristen will be completing her Reading Specialist certification while focusing on adolescent literacy at Goucher College this summer. She loves her students and teaching and enjoys uniting with like-minded educators; her Twitter username is @nielsen_kristen.