Stop The War On Teachers – Matt Damon

Matt Damon took time out of his schedule to attend the Save Our Schools Rally in Washington DC this weekend.

Here is the entire speech(emphasis mine):

I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’ That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.

I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

Also H/T Think Progress a quick little extra from Mr. Damon.

Editor’s Note: here is Matt Damon’s Speech:


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17 thoughts on “Stop The War On Teachers – Matt Damon

  1. Matt Damon is a just another useful idiot. The majority of districts in Wisconsin have been able to fix their budget deficits (many by switching insurance plans from the Union Wea overpriced plan) and prevent laying teachers off. Proof the Walker and Republican plan is working. Three districts are refusing to compromise and chose to lay off teachers AGAIN. Kenosha, Janesville, and Milwaukee.

    Pretty much the opposite of what the unions fearmongered would happen happened. The worst part for teachers? A $10 copay. The best part? No more forced union dues.

    1. No more forced union dues.

      Love how conservatives are ostensibly all for personal responsibility, against people receiving “free” handouts, etc., until a convenient talking point comes along. Then…wham!…gimme the free!!

      I’m not in a union, nor have I ever been. But I support them whole-heartedly, and think the notion of people receiving the benefits of membership without paying their dues (literally), is preposterous. No dues, no membership (and no part of the CBA’s) should be the rule.

    2. Mr. B.: I’m a positive man that doesn’t get into the habit of lowering myself to the status of a lower classed citizen. But, I’m so tired of hearing comments from the uninformed. You are invited to my classroom. I’d love the opportunity to educate you for one week. All I can say is – There must be two of you. One person can’t be this stupid!

  2. Have to agree with the first comment. there is no war and just another Hollywood elite uniformed about the facts

  3. Sarah and Mr. B: Are you teachers? Do you work in MPS, Kenosha, or Janseville? Maybe you should do real research before making foolish and untrue claims about teachers and workers. Sarah–just what “facts” are you talking about?

    I am an MPS teacher and we made concessions in November. And we had a pay-freeze for the past SEVERAL years in order to keep our pensions AS IS. Why are teachers the problem? Why are workers the problem? Since when do we blame workers for the problems of administrations? Teachers and other public workers did not CAUSE this so-called “budget crisis” so why must we be the ones to clean it up?

    And maybe you should research what concessions we negotiated in November before spewing lies like “$10 co-pay” .

    And, if people are benefiting from something (like a union, like public services–education, garbage pick-up, prison guards, nurses, snow-plows, cops, fire-fighters), then of course they should PAY for it–“forced union dues” means those people are getting something in return: like decent wages to allow them to buy homes in the communities in which they teach, where they then pay property taxes that go back into the schools where they work.

    Good god. Why am I getting into this ideology war, over and over and over and over? I’m so freaking tired of defending why TEACHERS should be treated like professionals who actually work hard.
    Get some critical thinking skills and figure out where the real problems are, instead of taking the easy, unjust way out.


    1. Wiscteacher…you took the words out of my mouth! This is frustrating and ridiculous because now everyone know what goes on in schools and how to teach kids. Keep strong in your beliefs!

  4. I didn’t read the word “union” in that whole speech. I’m wondering what speech Mr. B read.

  5. I wish the worst part was a $10 copay. I am losing between 8 and 9% of my pay. And this helps most districts to a point, but if you do a little research you will find that most districts are still losing more than they are gaining. Only a handful are coming out ahead. And poor districts are getting much bigger cuts than affluent ones.
    What’s going to happen next year, when these districts have to cut millions again? Are you going to keep taking it from the teachers? We may love children, but we also have our own families to support.
    To me, the worst part is not even the pay cut. It’s the fact that we no longer have input into our working conditions.

  6. Thank you Matt Damon! Your kind words are much appreciated… as for mr b and sarah… if you had any idea what you were talking about- perhaps your comments would have merit… however- you don’t… districts and unions have always searched for the best insurance at the best price- and for many years that was WEA in Wisconsin…. right now- it still is- districts have saved by shopping around- and always have- districts and unions together… people like you- are the problem- you have no idea what is going on and you spout the blather the tea baggers are spewing at every turn… how about you actually to to school board meetings, talk to teacher and board members- get actual information before you make totally stupid comments about something you know nothing about.

  7. “How uninformed is Matt Damon?” you ask. Try coming to North Carolina, which is a state ranked in the bottom half of the “smartest states” by the Princeton Review, and see how a REPUBLICAN HOUSE/SENATE, vetoed DEMOCRATIC Governor Bev Perdue’s proposal of $143 million in educational funds. In Charlotte, N.C., alone, 13 minority school districts were shut down in 2011. You say this “Hollywood Star” is uninformed. Well, that’s Fox News’ hegemonic practices at work for all of you Right-Winged conservatives who continue to disallow students the education they deserve.

    I work in Higher Education, and I will continue to quote this phrase: “There are always too many Democratic politicians, too many Republican politicians, and never enough U.S. politicians.”

  8. The same attitudes exist here in the UK. Teachers, along with other public sector worker are now being villified by large sections of the ConDem government as being part of the cause of the nation’s financial woes, with attacks on their unions, their working conditions and pensions. All at the same time as the UK government puts aside £100,000,000,000 each year for potential bank failures and allows up to £95,000,000,000 in tax to be avoided or evaded by large corporations and the wealthiest individuals.

  9. This goes to the people who wrote the first two comments. Where do you get your information from? I had to seriously laugh when you said most school districts are able to fix the their budget problems. Your wrong. I am a teacher in Racine Unified and we are still laying people off and cutting programs. You can’t believe everything Scotty Walker says. Remember he is a liar and a very good manipulator . Thats really all he’s good at.

  10. Thank you Matt. I have tears in my eyes. Your words really hit home. I’m working to gather my self esteem to go out again this fall and face the challenging job of teaching. I love my job, my co-workers, and most of all, my students. These past few months have change me forever. I am appalled at the people bashing that is taking place. I can’t believe human beings can call each other names and belittle one and other like they do on these blogs. I suppose it is their kindergarten teacher’s fault they didn’t learn the Golden Rule. Lastly, thank you to all of you have responded respectfully.

  11. Welcome all to our blog. Thank you for stopping by! Yes Mr.b has it all wrong but that is why he did not come back to defend his position he just hit and ran. We have been paying Our $10 copays for a couple years now and that was not the end of the world.

    Unfortunately many budgets are doing better because so many of our higher tenured teachers were forced to retire. next year is when the brunt of these devastating cuts will really affect our state and not in a good way.

  12. I actually attempted to do a point by point rebuttal of Mr.B and I found out that my response was over a page long. What I do encourage people to do is not listen to the fear mongering that is being spewed from either side of the aisle. Do what you should have been taught in school, research and become educated. Once you do that you will find out realities that you may never have expected about what goes on in our schools. If you are from outside of the Milwaukee metro area I encourage you to speak with people who work in MPS. Really, you will learn something.

    I moved into Milwaukee from Northern Wisc. and I have taught in MPS for a number of years. I had an extreme eye opening experience when I first came in and to this day I can not fathom experiencing some of the things that my students see daily. Shootings, drug raids, murders, gang activity, teenage pregnancy, absentee parents and these are just starters. With these things going on Walker and his cronies actually expect a kid to sit down and do their algebra homework. Really?

    As far as the budgets, become informed and figure out how much the average teacher is actually paying. Between insurance contributions and the out of pocket payments of the new insurance plans MPS teachers have taken a pay cut in the new contract.

    Again, become informed. If you can’t figure out any other way of doing it remember that most of you are taxpayers and community members. These are schools paid for with your tax dollars therefore you have the right to visit these buildings. Do it while classes are in session. Most teachers won’t have a problem with you stopping by to see what they are faced with daily.

    1. As an MPS taxpayer, thank you Irishbrew for all that you do. You and your colleagues have a difficult task and do a wonderful job considering. Though, reading the local paper or watching local “news” reports, you’d never know it. Reporting the positives (or at least the substance of the realities) wouldn’t get ratings or appease the suburban readership, after all.

  13. Thank you Matt, I love your acting and film making but you are at your best telling the truth about public school teachers. Teaching is in our family blood. It’s our ‘family business’ for generations. My grandfatehr and brother taught at the public university level as does my sister-in-law. I was a bilingual (Spanish/English) elementary school teacher for 32 years. Our daughter is a Special Education teacher and her husband is a high school math and scinece teahcer. We all were or are hard working, devoted, good at our jobs, well read, engaged with our communities, well traveled (on a budges always, naturally) and love unlocking the love of learning in our students at what ever level we choose to teach. Seeing students progress and knowig that that progress has much to do with what we have done on a daily basis is what the teaching career is about. None of the above mentioned teachers in our family, love administering standardized tests. I cannot even tell you the year in which I became tenured. I’m glad tenure exists and it does encourage teachers to be risk-takers and stretch in the classroom but tenure is NOT why someone chooses teahing as a life-long career.

    A huge thank you to Matt Damon for articulating the public teahcres’ points of view and to Lawrence O’Donnel and Anderson Cooper for highlighting Matt’s stand.

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