by Phyllis Bush, NEIFPE Co-Founder(Posted on Facebook)
I remember a few years ago when my grandson Evan asked me how old I was. When I told him, he said, "Gee, Grandma. That's a lot of numbers!"
....and so it goes. I am now 70, and that really is a lot of numbers. Other than having to recalibrate my age on my treadmill, 70 doesn't feel a whole lot different from 60 or 50 or 40. Still, it sounds really old even though inside my head I am still that young girl who is bumbling along, trying to figure things out.
As I have grown older, I have become more aware of who I am. I will always be a teacher. Helping others discover their strengths and find their own voices is what I love doing. Standing up for, respecting, and defending the voiceless is the fire that has burned within me for as long as I can remember. Pushing back against injustice is what gives me a reason to get up each morning.
In recent years, I have been troubled by the education reform policies which hurt children, teachers, and schools. Of course, I realize that public schools are not perfect, but the answers to improving education should and must come from those whose lives are impacted. If we are really serious about fixing what needs to be fixed in our schools and in our society as a whole, perhaps we need look no farther than Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Perhaps we need to start with something so basic as food and shelter.
Recently, I have been interested in Moral Mondays in North Carolina and the Nuns on a Bus, both of which have caught the attention of the media and may be a way of changing the narrative. Rather than labeling those in need as the 47% who want free stuff, we should see them as fellow travelers on this planet who need a hand up rather than a hand out. The disconnect between the media narrative and who we really are is that most of us rush to help when we hear about a tragedy or a disaster because our fundamental nature is to help one another. However, when we are fed a constant diet of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, we see people as "the other." When we strive for the Common Good of all, then we might find a sense of unity.
After all of these years, I know that literature is life and that literature can be instructive. Looking back and looking forward, perhaps the words of Tennyson are timely:
Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die...
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.