ZombieX: Kelly Gallagher Says Stop Readicide Now (Part 1 of an Interview)

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ZombieX is a 12-year old public school 7th grader.

According to “The Zombie Survival Guide,” there is no known way to cure an infected human. Since the creation of the “No Child Left Behind Act,” (NCLB) in 2002 the education system has been producing young mindless zombies. An entire country of zombies might be okay, even preferable, if we were in a communist country or even a monarchy.

But last time I checked, America is a democracy. In most states, when a person turns eighteen they are given the right to vote. So if our generation becomes a horde of slobbering zombies guess what that means? It means that we will likely have more crappy presidents who are controlled and bought off by greedy, self-righteous billionaires. Luckily, there are teachers who are trying to turn us kids into critical-thinkers. Critical thinking is the best vaccine for protecting ourselves from being turned into zombies. The future of America can still be saved from an invasion of the undead. And the heroes will be the teachers, people like Kelly Gallagher, author of four books including Readicide, and one of the best English teachers in the state of California.
I was fortunate enough to interview Kelly at Magnolia High School and I would like to share some of his profound wisdom. Kelly believes that the purpose of education is to turn kids on to the love of learning and thinking. Despite the fact that his students are not honors level, they do well on the standardized tests yet he doesn’t teach to the test. He teaches to the student. What does that mean?  Kelly tries to get kids to become very curious about the world around them and to be willing to pursue their interests in the world, then he gets them to write about their thoughts.

“I want my kids to be lifelong learners long after high school.” Kelly happens to be involved in an old geezer discussion group made up of 80 to 90 year-old doctors, lawyers, musicians, and other astounding people. Once a month, they sit down together to talk about a specific topic-it could be anything.  One thing he said that impacted me was, “What’s more important, the love of learning as an adult or your CST score in 7th grade?” This is much better than some of the cliché crap my teachers are forced to say like, “Do your best on the test!” Or, “If you do well we will give you a pizza party.” Do they honestly think that we don’t know what a bribe is?

An example of my love of learning is science, especially global warming. I have recently learned that massive dead zones are appearing more and more worldwide in our oceans. Many scientists are concerned that we may experience a marine mass extinction. Something of this scale has not happened for tens of millions of years! This is just one of many issues that is not taught in the classroom to us students. Think about it, if we are not educated on these things then we won’t be prepared to face them in our adult lives. We might just as well be standing around waiting for the planet and our civilization to collapse in on itself.

Hopefully, that will not occur if we have teachers and educators like Kelly running the show. But, “There is a silent curriculum of conformity.” Conformity means to be the same and not to stand out. I find this quote to be very true. After all, the system is making all students the same by testing them on the same material in the same method in the same time frame with the same extrinsic “rewards,” (a.k.a. bribery). However, Kelly mentioned that the kids who are different and are willing to question the system or think out of the box are the people that will succeed in the world. He told me a story about a business executive he met who said there are a lot of booksmart young people but very few who could think and who were creative.  I think that you should stick to your ideas and beliefs even if others reject them and they all view things in another way. Standardized tests don’t help us develop these skills.  “Conformity means for everyone to be pressured to be the same.” The kids who resist conformity, who are creative, who are different are the ones that will succeed and lead us forward. When he mentioned this I realized that he was talking about how conformity in the system creates zombies.

“There is a quiet pedagogy of drilling conformity into kids which in the long run is against their best interests; and there is an unwritten rule that schools are designed to keep you in your place.” To me and many other people, Kelly Gallagher is a true hero because he says what needs to be said about education. As I write this, our government leaders are debating the modifications and fate of education without asking us kids.  Right now, they are funding two pointless wars and giving tax breaks to the rich. Do they expect us to just keep in our place?

Recently my parents took me to see the play Les Miserables which is about how the poor are being screwed by those in power. This play made me think about how America is today. Just like in the play, the students need to rebel against the education system (not using violence of course). The young people need to take control of their future. I don’t want to be like Fantine in the play who sang “I Dream A Dream.” She wasn’t able to entirely fufill her goals and pursuits.  I want to fulfill my dreams and live a life worth living.  Doesn’t everybody deserve that? Don’t you?

ZombieX is a 12-year old 7th grader in public school who obviously enjoys reading. He is a contributing writer to K12NN. Read his other posts, “No Zombie Left Behind,” and “The Return of ZombieX: Rob Gaudette Teaches Beyond the Test.”

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10 Comments

  1. Bert - July 11, 2011, 1:06 pm

    I'm a teacher and really appreciate this blog by ZombieX. I couldn't agree more with Kelly that, " There is a quiet pedagogy of drilling conformity into kids which in the long run is against their best interests." We need to ask what's really going on? Who are the beneficiaries of a policy that is stifling students' ability to think critically? More than ever, we need strong teachers and administrators who will stand up to this.

  2. WendyC - July 11, 2011, 3:29 pm

    Another great article, ZombieX. I also agree with Kelly Gallagher, I think critical thinking and creativity are vital to strengthen our communities. I don't care if an employee knows how to bubble in a scantron, but I do care if an employee can think for themselves and develop a powerful project that is innovative. I hope our youth have the opportunities to find out what is interesting to them and become passionate about those things. I hope my daughters get that opportunity.

  3. Debbie Schroeder - July 12, 2011, 4:49 am

    I'm a principal of an elementary school. To some, this would imply that I'm an insider in favor of what Sacramento and Washington, D.C. are doing with public education. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Kelly conveys what I have come to believe. As educators, we need to help our scholars find the joy in reading again, something that we have lost along the way. And, we definitely need to teach beyond the standards and bubble tests so we can help our scholars evolve into critical thinkers, something that we desperately need in society. This will require educators to be advocates for our scholars rather than executors of countless and senseless mandates. Kelly is fighting the good fight, and I'm ready to back him up. Go Kelly!

  4. Mrs E. - July 12, 2011, 3:41 pm

    No offense to Debbie Schroeder, but this should not require "educators to be advocates for our scholars rather than executors of countless and senseless mandates." Kelly is indeed fighting the good fight–I teach in the same district as Kelly and try my best to fight as well. Why are you as a principal "ready to back him up?" Why are you not leading the charge to change harmful policies that are destroying public education? This should not be the focus of the classroom teacher–to spend valuable time fighting political battles with federal and state legislators—the teachers should be focused on the students in the classroom. But we are now told what to teach and how to teach it. I have been a public school teacher for 24 years and I am outraged at the legislation that has caused this horrific mess in the first place-but I am even more outraged at the district school boards and administrations that have given into this bullying instead of standing up for what we all know to be true–these policies are misguided at best and extremely harmful at the worst. It is the implementation of these mandates that have been the most egregious of all. We have lost a LOT MORE than simply the joy in reading over the No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top years. We have lost the joy in LEARNING!!! We have lost freedom to teach to the child instead of the test, we have lost the arts in many districts, we have completely lost our way. Our focus is completely misdirected.
    What is the most sad of all to me is that, thankfully, some young people are still finding ways to be successful in the world, but most are doing so in spite of education not because of it.

    • Bert - July 13, 2011, 4:04 am

      To me, Debbie is the type of principal whom we need, one who will back strong teachers like Kelly Gallagher. That is called leading by serving. I agree that the joy of learning has been stifled by local districts caving in to Bush/Obama policies. But because of increased outrage at the local level, I think there is hope. The vast majority of districts in CA did not sign up to Race to the Top. We need to support site administrators like Debbie wiling to back good teaching so we can stop the Zombie machine.

  5. Bao Nguyen - July 12, 2011, 5:36 pm

    It's good to know that even with all the pressures placed on teachers and students that true teachers like Mr. Kelly Gallagher are able to cut across and imbue others with the passion for learning. There's a cutting edge to the fearless outlook of Mr. Gallagher, which I'm sure has been sharpened over time. This precision is needed in expanding education's possibility, but how can it be cultivated in new teachers who come into the classroom needing to satisfy test score benchmarks and their passion for mastering true teaching?

    This blog offers little gems that spark with creativity and inspiration. Many thanks to ZombieX for the good work.

  6. Sharon - July 13, 2011, 5:20 am

    Sharon Crawford
    I love this metaphor about our students and what NCLB has done to them. We have almost an entire generation that is not able to think critically. If we don't begin teaching students to critically evaluate what they read and write, scores may continue to go up, but there will be no connection to a student's ability to think and reason critically. When students use writing to explain their learning, they are not only demonstrating their ability to use the facts learned, but that they understand what those facts mean in terms of personal and real world connections.Hopefully this will be a way to put the logic back in our students' abilities to reason.

  7. Karen Rose - July 13, 2011, 3:12 pm

    Zombie X possesses wisdom, intelligence and insight far beyond his years and far beyond that of most adults in the world today. Mr. Kelly Gallagher represents a rare calibre of educators who is fighting to save our educational system. We need more to join him.

  8. just another voice - July 15, 2011, 11:34 am

    Thank you Zombie X.
    Teacher, Grade 6

  9. Susan - August 15, 2011, 9:57 pm

    Great journalism work, Zombie X. I am officially jealous that you got to interview Kelly Gallagher, but awfully glad to know that there are smart, insightful, and courageous 7th graders out there like you. Thank you for your advocacy. I hope you are invited to testify before a Congressional committee!

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