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March 2001

Tam District Students To Explore Empty Education


Peel back the veneer of the guilded ghetto, and all is not well in the public education system. So, Tam High school District students are producing a unique one day forum called "Students Speak Out" to voice their concerns about the crisis within, testify to the problems with, and constructively contribute to the betterment of the education they are receiving. Senator John Vasconcellos and Author, Teacher and Free Speech Movement Veteran Michael Rossman will join panels of students speaking before other students at Olney Hall from 10 am to 530 p.m. on March 17. The day will also feature local student bands performing and other creative, artistic expressions that convey the frustrations and hopes of Marin youth.

Produced by Marin Students for Liberating Education, the day's activities are free and open to the public, but primarily oriented for the Drake, Tam, Redwood, and San Andreas high school communities.

Nate Davis, one of the student's organizing the event, said that part of the day's aim is to address "the problem we have in our public educational system countywide even statewide, with depersonalized schooling, schooling aimed towards producing a bunch of like-minded people to go to college, get jobs and support totalitarian economics." Davis, 16, is a former Tam High student, now attending College of Marin.

He emphasized that, “Students are stressed out to a very high level to achieve the high standards that are set up by our local and state school boards, and students are dissatisfied in Marin because the public educational system does not allow them to focus on some of the things they are interested in. It does not promote personal development in any way other than doing what everybody else is doing, making the experience very unexciting and unproductive.”

Mandy Hixon, Tam High Junior, another of the day's organizers, said “I want to show the community exactly what our concerns are, so they know and are at least able to acknowledge them. Because once they acknowledge them, they have to do something about it. I am concerned that parents and people within the community don't know what is going on in our schools and the problems that students face. The high school experience has changed a lot since my parents went to school, and not necessarily for the better. These are not the best days of my life, and I am not alone in that attitude."

"I think we need to create more freedom for education and bring in more arts and creative outlets into our public school system, so we don't have to go to expensive private schools to explore the mediums we aspire to explore," she added.

Richard Raznikov, Tam District Trustee stated, "The level of stress I'm seeing is unacceptable. Human beings cannot learn in that kind of environment. They can memorize, that's all. And memorization won't do them a damned bit of good in college or in life. Having high standards has nothing to do with hammering adolescents with standardized tests, so-called 'outcomes,' and mountains of pointless homework. It's just a political solution that's much cheaper than making a real commitment to public education."

Raznikov, along with many students, has problems with the STAR test, among other reasons, because "we're tracking kids, categorizing them, calling some of them winners and losers based on standardized tests. We're damaging a lot of kids psychologically. We hear that we've got '10's on the API (academic performance index), that Tam district schools have been named "Distinguished Schools," but we don't hear about the price our children are paying in suicide attempts, loneliness, self-medication, and substance abuse."

Said Nate Davis, "I am involved because I believe the potential for positive change is so great once we work through the denial in our community." Davis said his hope for the March 17 event "is that we can open people's eyes to the pressures the educational system puts on the teenagers in the community. We also want to collaborate among us and come up with a list of demands for the educational system to best serve the student's needs. Then we will come up with ways to facilitate the system complying with the list of demands."

For more information about the March 17 College of Marin event "Youth Speaks Out" or the Marin Students for Liberating Education, call Mandy Hixon at 388-3140, or Nate Davis at 479-9384.

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