Proud To Be 'Unacceptable'

Superintendent Kuhn delivers rousing speech

The speeches ranged from the informative to the inspirational and back again. The highlight barn burner was delivered by John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Con­solidated ISD, north of Fort Worth. Kuhn is already well-known for his "Alamo Schools Letter" (reprinted in the March 4 Chronicle). He delivered another command performance of his letter, inspired by William B. Travis, the commander of the Texas forces at the Alamo, and his new introduction to it on the importance and vocation of teaching rocked the Saturday rally. – M.K.

With his permission, here's that speech:


"I just got a text from Rick Perry. He wanted me to tell you that it's not his fault.

"Public school teachers, can you hear me? The school reformers say you are bad at what you do. But the secret to their success is simple: Keep the bad kids out. Exclude the children who are hardest to teach. Let them go to public school.

"But we say, 'Send them to us; we will take them.' We say: 'Send us your poor, your homeless, the children of your afflicted and addicted. Send us your kids who don't speak English y nosotros les hablamos en español, send us your special needs children. We will not turn them away.'

"And I tell you today, public school teacher, you will fail to take the shattered children of poverty and turn them into the polished products of the private schools. No, the most damaged public school children will not turn out as shiny and nice and new as the children whose applications are vetted and approved, whose parents buy them books; nor will you scrub them as clean as those whose parents keep them wrapped in the snug blanket of home schooling.

"You will be 'unacceptable,' public school teacher, and I say that is your badge of honor. I stand before you today bearing proudly the label of unacceptable, because I educate the children they will not. I take these children who have been broken by the failed policies of the very legislators who label me, and I glue their shards back together day after day. And those children are better for having passed through my classroom.

"I am unacceptable, and proud to be so.

"So I say to this Legislature: 'Go ahead and label me. I will march headlong into the teeth of your horrific blame machine and I will teach these kids. Millionaire senators, cut my pay back to minimum wage, and still I will march into that classroom full of children who need me, still I will walk proudly into that classroom with its broken ceiling tiles and its burned-out fluorescent bulbs.

"Bail out the bankers and bankrupt the teachers, and we will still teach. Bloodied and bruised and labeled, I will educate these kids, because contrary to what they say, I'm not in it for the money, and I'm not in it for the benefits. I'm in it because it's right. I'm in it because they need people like me in their lives. I'm in it for my children – Noah, Evan, and Liliana. I will fight to secure their future.

"I will never follow the lead of those who would exclude the kids who need education the most, so that my precious scores will rise. I will never line up with those whose idea of reform is the subtle segregation of the poor and desperate. I want no part in the construction of this American caste system.

"Public school teachers, you are the saviors of this society. You are the first responders standing in this rubble while they sit in their offices and scribble judgmentally on their clipboards. You are heroes, and what you do isn't worth $27 billion; it is priceless.

"Do not be surprised when the men and women who assemble in the building behind me fail to stand up for you, when they fail to stand up for the children you serve. Though their congressional districts may be rife with poverty, rife with drug abuse, rife with poor health care, rife with crime, they will not take on the label of 'Legislatively Unacceptable,' for they do not share our courage; they do not embrace our accountability. They will not lend their shoulder to one corner of this sacred burden. They will not sully their hands or let their children play in the sandbox with the poor.

"But fear not. This is our eternal glory. It is ours to educate; it is theirs to fund or not to fund. Where their heart is, there will their treasure be also. Let history judge."


You can hear John Kuhn deliver his "I Am Unacceptable" oration at www.savetxschools.org/2011/03/rally-storybook.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

John Kuhn, Save Texas Schools, Perrin-Whitt Consolidated ISD, Legislature

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