Is it fear of the darkness that dims our mind or is it the dim of our mind that is dark and damning? No one can be sure; however we can see what occurs and ask why. Why might Americans systematically deny rights to people of color? Why might the young, the most vulnerable among us, be victims of prey? Indeed, why do we prejudge people at all and why is it that even the elderly cannot escape our diabolical doings? The theories abound; answers escape us. Nevertheless, the veracity is our truth. The right to learn and the right to vote are denied.
We close their schools, deny them an equal and equitable education, and in 2013 we may ultimately rescind the voting rights of the few. In January of this year, the Journey For Justice 2 Alliance met with officials in Washington, District of Columbia, to discuss the topic, education policies that discriminate. Today, on February 27, 2013, just down the lane from the Department of Education hearing, another inquiry was held. The Supreme Court heard the case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. On the face of it, the argument may seem separate from the subject of school closures. However, considering the consequences of what might be after a day of testimony, Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices, there is reason for concern. Will the cycle of recrimination continue? Will we curse the darkness that is our own?
Human beings are a fascinating bunch. We gather information through observation, and the reading of facts, figures, and formulas. We draw inferences and deduce. Granted conversations too play a role in what we conclude; however, mostly humans rely on the readable. What we cannot see is thought less significant. Take Hurricane Sandy for example.
Meteorologists saw the signs. Citizens, who merely glanced at the papers understood what was visible in print; Sharp Warnings as Hurricane Churns In. People began to do as people do when warned of an impending storm. They prepare for the worse. Individuals and families evacuated the area. Transit Authorities shutdown the system. Cities and counties hunkered down.
Now, after the tempest took its toll, young ones do as the adults had done. An eight-grader's account looks at what appears on the surface. As do most, she too attends to material concerns. Rarely, do we know what else to do. Society and school curriculums that reflect a standardized surface reality do not give us the critical thinking tools needed to assist persons who have experienced an emotional trauma. Today, we have one. We have Psychological First Aid. This relief is not as a "kit" filled with bandages, cotton balls and antiseptic; nor is a box full of funds or quick-fix tricks. No, this Aid is much like cake you bake or the casserole you might make for family or friends in distress. Either is a gift of love. Each opens the door for conversations that reveal feelings. So what is this Aid?
Save Our Schools [SOS] is an organization devoted to fair and equitable education for all. We work to preserve and transform public education. We are a venue for active, people-powered, grassroots education innovation. In cyberspace and in communities throughout this country we advance solutions that bring learning back to our children, education back to public school classrooms, and policy decisions back to the students, teachers, and parents.
SOS is dedicated to finding a better, more balanced, path for education reform in this country. In that spirit, we propose The Equitable Education Policy Path. We establish that public education must be an American priority. Education is a basic civil and human right. Every child has the right to attend a high quality public school.
"America's future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live." -Jane Addams [Public Philosopher, Sociologist, Author]
Our initiative was born out of an overwhelming awareness that today, and for the last several decades, students and teachers have been increasingly reduced to data-points. Humans are no longer given the opportunity to learn for more than the mere moments required to memorize facts and formulas for a battery of tests.
Inherent within each of us is conflict. Generally speaking, we think growth is good. Progress is a sign of achievement. As George Bernard Shaw so aptly articulated, "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." Indeed, politically, at one time or another, persons within each Party have embraced the label, "Progressives." Even the most entrepreneurial embolden the idea of Progress. Goldman-Sachs boldly bolsters, Progress is everyone's business." However, while we glorify growth, we disdain it. Most of us look back and think, "Those were the days."
The good ole days are commonly defined as "when we were young." It might have been the 1930s, 1940s; the fifties were fine! In earlier eras, schools were vehicles for success. Now, these same institutions are seen and scored as failures. Teachers were principled. Today, throughout the news we read, educators are perverse. Our children come home and tell tales that affirm what adults have come to believe is true; teachers are bad! Public education is worse. Students and parents surmise, home schools or private learning centers would better serve their needs. Cyber classes too must be an option. Online learning tailors a lesson, much more so than a unionized teacher would. The people want Choice!
There is one consensus; tests are good. Accountability is the gold standard. Current conventional wisdom counters what was thought to be exceptional, in the nineteen sixties. Decades ago, those under thirty and even their elders changed the world for the "greater good." The baby boomers were beautiful or were they bad...bad for the country and worse for businesses?
The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed. "The Medium is the Message." Melodic Messages such as "Freedom" and "Individual Choice" Move the Masses. Move the Masses. Money is less Meaningful than a Mission that Gives Voice to a Shared Vision.
What does a memorandum scribed more than a two score ago have to do with a present-day petition? Everything! Granted, on the surface there are few if any similarities beyond the veracity that each addresses education. One is an archaic collection of suggestions. The other is a contemporary polemic petition. The latter has an immediate punch. The language is forceful. The sentiments are fervent. Signers of the Dump Duncan supplication submit, we "wish to express our extreme displeasure," followed by a threat. "It is unlikely that you will receive continued support unless..." The plea is addressed solely to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. The former, known as The Powell Memo, while a quiet communiqué, became a catalyst for lasting and profound change. The latter "Dump Duncan!" document, however, will likely die a quiet death. Why might this be?
My answer to your survey question, "Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?" is No. In truth, for me it is not that simple. I know from our conversations and abundant experiences, the query is not meant to close doors; nor will you draw erroneous conclusions from the "data" collected. I understand that you wish to hear from your constituency. Therefore, I write. I will present support for my opinion. The Economic Policy Institute, CaRDI, a Multidisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Cornell University, and Michael Winerip, Education Journalist for the New York Times will serve as my surrogates. I understand that the immediate opinion polls show broad support for the President's speech. However, I suspect a more nuanced look may reveal that more feel as I do. Perhaps, my words will also speak for the people who merely marked "Yes," "No," or "I do not have an opinion" on your and other surveys. I can only hope that you might take a moment to ponder.
The words said were, "We do not have that luxury anymore." The speaker stated that she loved the bliss. The extravagance that she was speaking of is that of teaching in a manner that enlivens learning, engages, and ensures that students internalize information. She was referring to her joy for teaching in a style that creates wisdom, the learning that lasts for a lifetime. Is it true that teaching in this way is an indulgence; and that she is no longer able to partake in this possibility? If this is true, it is sadness. The greater sorrow is that this Educator's testimony is not an anomaly.
To believe that teaching in this fashion is a "luxury" and that it is lost, never to return is a concept that I cannot, or more accurately, wish not to consider. Yet, I cannot help but wonder; why does she feel that she no longer has this? When, why, or how, did she lose what was once the objective in education? How could this Instructor consider taking the time to guide learning, to give students an opportunity to truly acquire knowledge as a lavish pursuit? As much as I wondered; I knew.
Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. ~ Jacques Barzun
I am unsure if we have had the pleasure of an in-person exchange. I too travel in political circles. However, I do not recall. Perhaps we met in the past. I trust I have done business with you and your firm, Bain Capital. Bravo on your successes.
Please allow me to introduce myself by way of this letter. This morning, I caught a glimpse of your Today Showinterview with Matt Lauer. I heard you speak of the exaggerated envy now heard on the campaign trail. Oh, my friend Mitt, how I relate. If I might; well stated my man. People do want what they do not have. First Bain, then the White House. Indeed, one Chief Executive position ensured that you were a world power. The other is but a natural transition. Instead of having a seat at the table of global influence, as President of the United States, you, old man, will own the table.
A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question. Each asks, "What epitomizes a great learning center?" "How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?" The solutions are many. Every association offers guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership. The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children. In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth. Many aspirations. Many a mirage. How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.
As I write I listen to you speak of poll taxes and voter suppression. I wish to share my story in respect to my personal reality and the fear that I live with. Decades before the Barack Obama long-form birth certificate, I realized my own fear. Unlike the persons in your account, I am not a senior citizen. I am a permanent resident of the United States and have been for all of my life. While I have never crossed a border into another country, I have great apprehension for what might occur.
May I provide a bit of background? For the last six years, I have lived in the State of Florida. I trust that the Florida situation, and thus mine, is familiar for more than a few. Millions of Americans have found, or will discover, circumstances have changed. The opportunity to cast a ballot, early, easily, or to merely to be part of the electoral process is no longer theirs.
As any Mom or Dad might do on Parent Teacher Conference Day, Amy Valens, the Educator featured in the documentary film August To June, traveled from "classroom to classroom." This journey was not a conventional one. Indeed, Amy did not attend a series of Parent Teacher Conferences. What she did was appear at Palm Beach screenings of her documentary. The film follows twenty-six  third and fourth graders who studied with Amy in her last year of teaching. The public school open classroom "Brings Life" to education.
After the movie was viewed, Ms Valens and the audiences engaged in conversations. They discussed what they saw and how it might relate to a broader dialogue. The subjects of Education Reform, Classroom Standards, Teacher Quality, Merit Pay, Student-Rewards for Success, Parent Involvement, and Testing are but a few topics prominent in our national debate. While the assemblies of viewers varied widely, the results were the same. Every child, every class, all Teachers, and each parent, tells a unique tale. Regardless of the individual or group, we see the world, or in this case the film, through our own lens.
I offer homage to a Teacher whose pedagogy touched me in a manner invisible to me until this moment. For scores, I understood what a gift he was to me. His open and caring ways were as I craved. However, I had never imagined that this man's schooling style made the difference in my life. Today, I invite each of us to look beyond the boundaries or the labels.
Innumerable Scholars seek to inform rather than interact in a way that inspires. Academicians, an abundance of these, think to fill a brain full of facts, formulas, and figures, is to teach. I wonder; do these Educators believe they learn from their students? I cannot know with certainty. For myriad mentors, their labor is not born out of love, but out of need . . . the need to train students for a test.
Near a month has passed since the Save Our Schools storm swept through Washington District of Columbia. As with all squalls the effects of such an event linger long after the winds die down. A physical space cleaned-up after a tempest takes place does not erase the memory of what occurred. Be it a blast of air or an action, the calm does not close a chapter in our lives. The current, commitment, the cause, and our concern do not wane with time, that is, unless we choose to move on or tell ourselves that that is possible. I believe the notion the past is past is fallacious. Our past permeates the present and is a foundation for the future. Thus, for me, the thought, and the March to Save Our Schools are strong. It survives as is evidenced by the now named Movement.
I believe the Movement did not begin with the March. The happening was but a moment, albeit an extremely significant historical occurrence. The energy exhibited on July 30, 2011 was an expression of what preceded it and illustrates what will follow. Determined not to invite the doom of a forgotten precedent, demonstrators such as I reflect on what was. Together we will build a better potential for our progeny. May we begin to extend the journey today? Ask yourself what you saw, did, felt, tasted, touched; tell your Save Our Schools March story. I offer mine as a gift to you.
I ask and answer questions presented to me. Whether you were in Washington, District of Columbia for what some characterize as the main event, at another Demonstration elsewhere, or connected only through the tube, YouTube, radio, and papers, what did you perceive, receive, or retrieve? Please share your personal story!
May our offspring, schools, society, and we, grow greater through our caring and sharing. Let the past, the procession, and the prospect be our guide.
It happened last night. As I reflect, I realize it has happened all along. Each day, in most every moment I have an opportunity to look at life and learn. Yet I become consumed with more immediate concerns. He said. She said. The system, situation, or some other entity supplants a deeper assessment. Years ago, I came to understand that I create my own chaos, calm, or shades of what will be. As an Educator, I speak of this often. My students often quote me on the subject of choices. Yet, until yesterday, I never fully grasped how true my words might be. I am unsure why the events of the evening took me where they did. I share the story.
I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all. All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways. Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference. Several have, do, or expect to act locally. Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family. Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.
With news of Congressman Anthony Weiner's indiscretions the word "Hung" has frequently been heard. "Hung Over" too entered our conversations. Many asked if he was. "Hung Up" played a powerful role in reflections. "Hung Out to Dry" seems to be the consensus. Crowds of Congressmen and women, citizens from each political Party, and even those who claim no loyalties, say, The Representative must be renounced. Few wish to admit that Anthony Weiner is but you and me.
Supreme Court Justices, who served under Chief Jurist Brennan, perhaps, make three. Any of us might easily say, as the Justices did decades ago; on the subject of obscene or outrageous, "I Know It When I See It." We each do. Still, the definitions vary.
While few of us are officially appointed to write "codes" of conduct, as the Supreme Court Justices are, we too avidly watch the actions of another and judge.
August To June, Empathy And Education; The Union As Presented at Temple Beth El, Boca Raton. Community Forum on Education; "Teach Your Children Well" I wish to thank Rabbi Brockman, Debbie Block, and each of you, for this opportunity. May I also offer my sincere gratitude to my mentors, Amy and Tom Valens, the makers of August To June.
You have just seen a lesson the two illustrate so well. "One Class" plus "One Year" equals more than the sum of these parts. Through twenty-six eight to ten year olds, and a Teacher, the Whole Child concept is understood.
Other persons who offered this lesson are here among us. In spirit my very, very, very young cousin, at the age of 93 is with us, as are you. I will share Alvin's wisdom as I go on. I experience that yours is ever-present in our travel together this evening. For now, I will merely say; Alvin does, as I trust you will tonight; teach me. I have faith that your every word and deed will inform my own.
That is what human interaction does for each of us; it edifies.
Today, Americans walk it back, Belatedly, and too late to bring home American and Allied troops who died in battle, government officials released recordings. The media distributes and discusses these en masse. Those prominent in the Press and Public Office say "the people have the right to know," exactly what the tale that could have been told decades ago. Osama Bin Laden was never more than human, a tragic hero, a comical character, just as you or me.
On this date, May 2, 2011, my thoughts are with those who lost a loved one in war. Brutal battles cause such harm. Yet, curiously the seem never-ending. It would appear that humans forget their history. When attacked, people frequently attack back. With a loved one lost in war, or other destructive engagement, rather than relate to the pain of another who has experienced as they do or did, a pained person often seeks revenge. Combat starts a cycle; however, once commenced, it does not cease. Perchance, we might ponder the past and the people the circumstances of those who are no longer with us. Instead, today, as the headlines herald Obama Calls World 'Safer' After Pakistan Raid and Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces countless celebrate in glee.
This much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation,
and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul. ~ Robert F. Kennedy
"All aboard?" The conductor cries out. The people, men, women, and children file in. The train fills quickly. Finally, after what are only mere minutes, the engine turns. Steam, or today, diesel fumes, billow out the pipes. We are off on a road of no return. It is another election season. In truth, these never really begin nay end. The cycle is as the chug-chug of any locomotive; it is continuous, monotonous, a wearisome drone. The series starts as it always does, with hope, dreams of change, and the catechetic realization that the Messiah has come. Soon we see this redeemer is but a man or woman, a meager mortal. He, be he the President of the United States, the Libyan "Leader," the "boy next door," the "good girl," you or me is not the savor we imagined.
While I have no desire to share my physical age, for I think each Soul, should they chose to be, is timeless, for the purposes of this treatise on Planned Parenthood, I will. The reason, I think this topic is more than a meaningful one. In truth, Planned Parenthood has long been extremely significant in my life. No. I was never pregnant. I planned or at least Planned Parenthood taught me to. I share the one and only tale that caused me to question my judgment and myself. On one occasion I had unprotected sex. The results? Well, you decide. I offer my story.