Matt Damons speech at the Save Our Schools rally, July 30, 2011
I think you’re awesome!
Iflew 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 youre 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 wouldnt 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 Ive 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 thats true. But its more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasnt taken up with a bunch of test prep this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesnt 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, dont get me wrong, I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principals office and said, My kid aint taking that. Its stupid, it wont tell you anything and itll just make him nervous.
I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.
I dont 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 not 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 dont know where Id be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldnt be here, I do know that.
This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I cant 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 Im not alone. There are millions of people just like me.
So the next time youre 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 over-paid; the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy thats 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.
For more on the campaign to protect public education see RethinkingSchools.org