It’s been a few years since Arvind Grover, ed-tech specialist in NYC, and I looked around boutique education conferences and said, “Wow, these spaces need a lot more diversity.” When a few of us sat there and said we’d create a clearinghouse to rate the diversity of any conference we came across, I didn’t think we’d have much impact. How many people of color were willing to jump into spaces they didn’t feel invited to? How many people were ready to have that conversation about race in education reform at all? While supposed ed-reformers like former Washington DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and principaneur Steve Perry ran around telling the world that teachers’ union stunk and that the current teaching corps, 85% of whom are white, have low expectations of the neediest students of color, no one in that stratosphere was willing to say, “There’s a progressive way to discuss race in education reform.”
This collective of teachers, parents, students, and other education denizens from many different backgrounds has secretly taken the lead on a lot of great efforts in the last year or so, building up leaders in their edu-communities, promoting diversity in different spaces, and holding organizations and personalities to higher standards when talking about race.
Readers of this blog know how I feel about the teachers who wore the NYPD t-shirts on the first day of school. (For added context, please read NYC Educator’s post on this as well.) Now, our EduColor team has asked everyone involved to not do what’s popular, but to do what’s right, even people who I have a good relationship with. Our calls for justice are an assertion that, yes, our voices belong here. At a time when a majority white teaching profession comes in conflict with a majority non-white student body, having thorough race discussions in our school buildings as part of our professional development coincides with the calls for the NYC Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, and the group of NYPD t-shirt wearing teachers to address this better than using policies and codes.
The transition from EduColor from humble clearinghouse to rumbling coalition isn’t lost on me as the founder. Now, we have an independent set of folks who think we can do better than the current crop of folks on the proverbial “both sides” trying to tap into discussions of race.
The petition is an important piece. Be a part of our community. We can do this.