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Matt Damon Talks to 9NEWS NOW

2:06 PM, Jul 31, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) - Actor Matt Damon rallied teachers Saturday at a march in Washington, telling a crowd of passionate educators that the personal skills he values the most can't be tested. 

Damon came as a big name celebrity but said he would not be famous today if not for the teachers that made a difference in his life, including his own mother, who introduced him on stage.Nancy Carlsson-Paige, taught childhood education at Cambridge's Lesley College.  

"My imagination , my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity.  All of these things came by the way I was parented and taught.  None of these qualities that have brought me so much joy.  None of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested," he said to thousands of cheering people.  "My teachers were empowered to teach me.  Their time wasn't taken up by silly test prep, by such drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn't promote real learning.  My teachers were empowered to unlock our potential." 

Before he took the podium he talked about preparing his speech with 9NEWS NOW'S Brittany Morehouse.  

"In my remarks today as I was writing them," he said.  "One of the things I wanted to emphasize is I feel more and more appreciative today for the teachers that I had. And it really sinks in as I get older how lucky I am.  And I want that for every kid." 

Damon spent hours talking to people who planned and attended the event, taking pictures with fans and many teachers. He brought one of his own favorite teachers Larry Aaronson, a gifted photographer and a former history teacher at Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, where Damon and Ben Affleck went to school. Aaronson, described that environment as "an alternative progressive high school." 

"It was about progressive schooling, progressive parenting and progressive performing arts," he said.  "The teachers had ownership over our curriculum. We were assessed but we also had a great voice with what we were doing with our students. It was a blessing to be in the place like that.  We were passionate about what we were doing and the passion was palpable."

Aaronson also taught in Washington DC.  He started the Cardoza Project of Urban teaching program.  He taught his last year here in 1969 and 1970 at Walt Whitman High School. 

"The critical issue for me is this is a challenge to the heart and soul of American democracy, not only about how we learn,with whom we do, and how the resources are equitably distributed," said Aaronson. "But it's also about how we're going to be able to move forward in a highly pluralistic highly globalized population around the most difficult, complex and challenging issues of our time.  If we have schools that are becoming despotic, authoritarian, routinized and undemocratic in every way, we are not going to have the thinkers the independence we need.  It's not going to be there. There's a lot at stake."

The last message Matt Damon left with teachers was one of support and encouragement.  

"Please please please know there are millions of us behind you," said Damon.  "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." 

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