In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Thursday, actor Matt Damon shared his thoughts on a number of topics ranging from ice cream cones to how lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills millions of kids each year.
On education policy and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Damon's responses provide the kind of perspective so absent from corporate media coverage.
My mom’s a professor and she’s become increasingly concerned, as have a lot of teachers, about the way policy is being designed in this country. It’s being designed by a bunch of people who aren’t teachers. They talk about accountability, but they’re measuring with these standardized tests, which I believe in my heart they will start fading out. It just demonstrably does not work. No Child Left Behind does not work.
I’ve always believed that they have to invite teachers into the discussion to help design policy. We would never let business men design warheads, why would you cut out educators when you’re designing education policy? This was for one of those libertarian websites and they had an attack question planned about tenure. Diane Ravitch was there, she’s a huge figure in education and she jumped in and just set them straight about what having tenure meant. It just basically means you have the right to be represented, and have your side of something heard if someone is trying to get rid of you. But in terms of education policy, I think that far too much emphasis has been put on these tests. You’re going to get teachers teaching to the test and you’re not actually giving them the leeway to do their jobs.
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People get tired of hearing about Finland, but they do it better than anyone, and when you look at how, it’s very simple. They have very highly trained teachers. 50% of teachers here quit within 5 years. We just send these kids to these 6 week Teach for America training courses and expect them to perform well. In Finland, 1 out of 10 people get into these teaching colleges. You have to go through the entire program and come out with a Masters, and then you’re put in room with another teacher and a class size no bigger than 20. It’s highly regarded, people don’t quit. Finland kicks our ass on any metric. They keep the class size down, they’re aggressive about confronting poverty. We have the resources here it’s just whether we’re willing to focus on it.
Another Reddit user asked the actor about the noted scene in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting in which Damon's character explains why he shouldn't work for the NSA, and what Damon thought about the surveillance revelations made possible by leaks from Edward Snowden. He replied:
You know, I was unaware, as I think everyone was, that they had that capacity. Snowden is literally changing policy. These are conversations we have to have about our security, and civil liberties, and we have to decide what we are willing to accept, and he’s provided a huge service kickstarting that debate.
You can watch that scene from Good Will Hunting below: