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Matt Damon and His Mom Say “No Thanks” to Education Award

Matt Damon and his mother, a lifelong educator and professor of education, turned down a nomination this week for the National Education Association’s Friend of Education Award. Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Damon’s mother, wrote to NEA president Dennis Van Roekel, citing his recent collaboration on an opinion article with Wendy Kopp of Teach for America as her reason for declining the nomination.

Matt Damon has been outspoken in his support of educators, publicly decrying the prevalence of standardized tests in this country and the pressure teachers feel to teach to those tests. His support during a rally in Washington last July put him in the spotlight as a friend to education and he and his mother were asked if they’d be willing to accept a nomination for the award, something they agreed to, until she read the opinion article in December.

In a letter to Dennis Van Roekel, dated January 4th, 2012, Dr. Carlsson-Paige wrote:

“Recently, I read the opinion piece you wrote with Wendy Kopp in USA Today and was upset and confused by your collaboration with Teach for America. I am a life long teacher educator. I believe that one of the first things we must do to improve our nation’s schools is to extend, strengthen, and support teacher preparation. I am very familiar with TFA and believe that its short-term, minimal training of teachers undermines teacher quality and harms children who too often get an inadequate education with its teachers.”

She then went on to share her regrets that, due to the collaboration, it would “not be wise” for her and Matt to be nominated for the award.

In his response to her letter, Mr. Van Roekel stated, “I believe NEA should talk to those who support public education, even if we don’t agree on everything, and work together to serve students.

Wendy Kopp and I agree that students will benefit from stronger
recruiting and teacher preparation.”

Personally I agree with Mr. Van Roekel. If we only collaborate with people who share every one of our exact opinions, we will never accomplish what needs to be done to help kids in this country. I may not agree with all or most of what you stand for, but if you’re taking a stand that’s in the best interests of our kids, I will stand with you on that issue… and possibly speak out publicly against you on others.  

Kathryn Thompson is a mom to two school-aged kids, a toddler and a deceased betta fish. She can also be found at The Parenting Post, and occasionally the gym.