President Obama in School

Dear President Obama: The Education Voice Needs A Better Song

Jose Vilson Jose 2 Comments

This week, I’ll be highlighting the voices of a few, proud, and dedicated bloggers who have an awesome voice and passion for this discussion about education. Please join me as I step back and let these powerful voices speak. Tonight, I give a preamble of sorts.

President Obama in School

Dear President Barack Obama,

This week is the most important week of your legacy. As I write, the debate rages about health care reform, and whether this bill passes or not, this certainly will leave a huge mark on the American public and the body politic. In this respect, I see the ways in which your measure can alleviate the physical and financial pain of millions of Americans. Even as the crass voices of opponents show up in front of the Capitol Building, your staff and the more progressive representatives of this country have heard the voices of those who’ve actually been affected by health care.

In the same way, I wonder if you’re doing the same for education. As recently as 2 weeks ago in Wake County, NC, school board president Ron Margiotta called those who disagreed with him in these meetings “animals out of a cage,” a rather derogatory metaphor for a mostly Black American population in this area. That combined with the recent school closures in places like Central Falls, Kansas City, and the state of California makes this the best time for real educational change.

And yet, you support these closings without so much as a press statement and a visit from Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Even with the plethora of studies showing the reforms you’d like to enact (charter schools / merit pay / more testing) really don’t change anything. Let’s get innovative and let’s talk to the people on the ground. As boards get more full of former businessmen and politicians (and less educators), the voice of those who actually work in the front lines get lost, even as we’re asked to acquire higher degrees and professionally develop ourselves to match our craft’s rigor and demand.

I’m not just talking about it, though.

I’d like you to read the stories of people from various backgrounds all week this week, forming a better understanding of what we’re facing. I’m not asking you to respond specifically to me, even though I’ll be around your house sometime next week. I’m imploring you to ignore the voices of the lobbyists and talking heads and see the real people. Visit a school that’s not necessarily doing well, or a school doing well in spite of its conditions. Talk to a parent who has a hard time making it to parent-teacher conferences because she has to work from 3-11pm. Ask a student who can’t afford breakfast and ask how they’re doing in school.

When it comes to education, many of your moves (or lack thereof) have seemed rather disingenuous. While your back-to-school speech rang true for so many of us, the way in which national policies have reflected regression and not progression made me shake my head further. After all, the same people who dissuade the voices of education from rising now profit from manipulating what’s taught in schools. Including whether we live in a democracy.

And wouldn’t you agree that an integral part of this idea of America is the ability to voice one’s opinions under the statutes of the Constitution? Or will we further unveil a truth so many of our poor, hungry, and unprivileged citizens in our neediest neighborhoods already understand?

We’d like some time to be recognized. Without objection.

Jose, who is eagerly awaiting the ramifications of health care …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

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