Usually my random thoughts rush at me in the middle of the night when I cannot get to sleep. However, today's thoughts are from a mixture of exhilaration and exhaustion from yesterday's visit to the State House in Indianapolis. We spoke with two senators for an hour and for 40 minutes with another. They said all of the "right things" about how they support public education, public schools, public school teachers, public school kids, and blah blah blah; however, after many years of teaching, my BS detector was going wildly off the charts. One senator referenced some mysterious, non-existent poll about 70% of Hoosiers supporting vouchers. We asked him which poll that was, and his reply was that ALL of the polls said that. Say what? That doesn't even come up to the "dog ate my homework" level of excuses. Whether their responses were based on arrogance or whether they truly believe their own rhetoric, it was frustrating and upsetting to think that their agenda is more important than really studying the unintended consequences of their policies. The fact that they do not understand the injustice of Indiana's school choice/vouchers is mind boggling.
While I am not so naive as to believe that public schools are perfect, I also believe that if educators are involved in the process, they can work towards creating schools that are healthier places for children and other living things. Sadly, no one has bothered to ask teachers. Ask any teacher what needs to be fixed in his or her building, and he or she can tell you exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. However, teachers have been so diminished and devalued since the reform juggernaut has rolled down the tracks, who would even think of listening to people who have been so disrespected?
While it was thrilling to see other activists at the rally, it was also discouraging to know that we are fighting such a huge, well funded monolith. Like Sisyphus, I will keep pushing that boulder up the mountain, and when I am most frustrated, I will try to remember the words of Ted Kennedy: "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
Phyllis Bush speaks to the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE)
Rally in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 19, 2013.