by Phyllis Bush
Curiously, I have felt as though my brains have been in a blender of late.
Last weekend I attended the 2nd Annual Network for Public Education Conference in Chicago. I had planned to write about how uplifting the NPE conference was, but when I got back home, the end of the Indiana legislative session happened, and, as per usual, our legislators' latest and most flagrant power grab took place at the 11th hour. Given that this merry band of marauders has been drunk with power since they attained a super majority, I cannot say that I was surprised. Even though I was livid as I watched the Twitter feed, my only real surprise was that their hubris has no bounds.
Meanwhile back at my happy place, this year's conference afforded me the opportunity to see old friends, meet new people, and share ideas with other activists. Last year I came away from the NPE conference totally energized, thinking that we could turn the tide of education reform. This year, after another fast and furious session of education reforms coming at warp speed, I was looking forward to being re-energized and refocused by the conference, and I was.
While there were many inspiring speakers and panel discussions, what I came away with was a need for a different strategy. While I have been focusing on the single issue of the destruction of public education, there are other interrelated issues which have resulted in the crushing of the middle class. Thus, if we are to have any success, we need to reach out to other people with other issues (racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, and so on) to build bridges and to build coalitions.
As I exchanged ideas with various groups of people, our excitement and energy came from collaboration, not competition, despite the notion that we are constantly being told that we only get better when we compete. While that is a lovely sound bite, it is dismissive of the importance of relationships. Whether we are talking about schools or any other social endeavor, our greatest strengths come when we work together for a common good. Saving our public schools and making them fair and equitable to all--regardless of race, gender, or economic status--are the key components in creating and maintaining a fair and just society. For those who speak of American exceptionalism, isn't access to that ideal part and parcel to our view of American greatness?
Even though I know that making our a world a good and just place is not going to be easy, I still believe that we can strive to be better, and as long as I have the strength to continue, I will keep fighting to create a better world.
In the words of Tennyson:
Come, my friends, Tis not too late to seek a newer world....Of course, Tennyson is right. We must continue to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. We must continue to do what is right for all of us.
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.