This past week has been nothing short of nuts.
I had the opportunity to attend (and present and moderate) at the first annual Network for Public Education Conference, a gathering of education activists from across the country, including Diane Ravitch (the organization’s president), Deborah Meier, Karen Lewis, John Kuhn, and a whole host of names everyone has seen in the education sphere.
My first real honor was tuning out adult voices as the moderator of the now-infamous student panel that included activists (and students) Stephanie Rivera, Hannah Ngyuyen, Chicago Student Union founder Isreal Muñoz, and Providence Student Union rebels Bryan Varela and Mayra Mostafa. As Chris Thinnes, who attended the conference live, noted, I assured that all of us stayed deferential to the students, both on the panel and in the audience. I brought out cards for the adults, and let the students in the audience do all the talking. Even with the powerful folks in the audience, Karen Lewis and Katie Osgood among them, I felt like we as adults could learn more by just listening to them and their thoughts for a change.
I still couldn’t shake the jitters, though. My calm exterior didn’t betray the internal angst of the notorious Sunday Morning Common Core panel with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, moderated by edu-blogger and organizer Anthony Cody, and featuring a few others who’ve advocated passionately against the Common Core State Standards and the privatization of public schools (Mercedes Schneider, Paul Horton, Geralyn McLaughlin). Even though others thought it was going to be a 5 on 1, I never had that impression because a) I had cut down my social media intake by 80% or so and b) I don’t see why people felt I had to go “hard” against Randi Weingarten. Without my union, I probably couldn’t advocate as hard as I do.
So, I’ve written numerous times about my ever-evolving position on the CCSS, but, more importantly, I’ve written even more about how reforms always go through people of color first before they go to “white suburban moms.”
To that end, I felt a certain anger after the question was posed about whether folks should join up with the Tea Party to oppose Common Core. To that end, my answer came from a place that wouldn’t let me sit still. I had already known a few of the liberal audience members who wanted to join up with TP to oppose policy like student privacy and CCSS. I have a hard time with this for a few reasons:
- Public education is for the public good. When most of the students primarily affected by these deleterious reforms are of color, how do we work with people who view folks of color as sub-human and still presume we’re doing good?
- Public education is for the public good. If the Tea Party succeeds in having student privacy and CCSS addressed, should they continue to rely on liberals who aligned with them on privatization of public schools and anti-women’s rights agenda as well?
- Public education is for the public good. Do we consider what it means to have an education for the public in the vision of so many of all colors who strived for a truly perfect union?
There’s a big difference between having a difference of opinion, as so many do with our union representatives, for example, and a difference of vision. The difference is in how we view others in the same tent. Do we see each other as equal, capable of leading this movement, or as subordinate, a step towards a goal that eventually excludes? Inclusion along race, gender, and class lines matters. Examining the ways in which we hinder ourselves is so crucial to this work.
I thank the Network for Public Education for inviting me to this tent. I’m just hoping my sleeping bag works as well as the others’ in the night.