On TV, we have Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and “Waiting for ‘Superman'” talking about failing schools, low standards, and China, but rarely do they ever talk about students.
Who is going to tell the story of public education? Is it going to be the corporate-education reformers who haven’t spent a day teaching, or is it going to be the students, teachers and parents who live the realities of these policies every day in the classroom?
To address this I took the spring semester of my freshman year of college off to make a documentary that shows the human side of the debate which, with the emphasis on test scores, is ignored.
LISTEN grew out of my own personal frustrations when I was in high school. I was always passionate about learning so I signed up for many Advanced Placement classes expecting them to be challenging college-level courses that would expand my critical thinking and creativity. But what I got instead were classes that consisted of rote memorization and constant test preparation. It angered me and eventually I just stopped studying and my grades dropped. How come us students were never asked what we wanted from our own education?
AP French was where I lost it. Two years ago, the College Board was in the process of changing its AP French exam. One day instead of her usual lesson my teacher gave us a pilot exam the College Board wanted to test. I didn’t do it. Instead I wrote an letter in the margin of the answer sheet expressing my frustration with the way the College Board have interfered with my education. The next day at school I got called down to the counselor’s office. I was freaking out, and was freaking out even more when I walked in to see my French teacher sitting in the room as well. I was going to get in so much trouble. Thankfully, this was not the case.
I had my French teacher for three years of high school. She knew me really well and knew that I’d done well in her previous classes. She said she’d been concerned about me all year after my grades suddenly dropped. I told her I felt defeated and how I felt like school was holding me back from reaching my true potential. And then she shared her own frustrations with testing. Of course! How could I be so arrogant to think that I was the only one who suffered from testing? She told me how she didn’t like teaching the test, either. She told me she’d rather us watch French films or travel to a French bakery. And then my French teacher said something I won’t forget for a long time: “Maybe if the students themselves spoke out against it, it could all change.” So that’s what I tried to do.
– Ankur Singh – Director of LISTEN