martin luther king jr Archives - The Jose Vilson

martin luther king jr

martin-luther-king-arrestedTo my fellow education activists:

I’ve come across a few pieces that concern me and others in the last few months, and we got some shit to talk about.

On normal days, I wake up at 5:30am hellbent on kicking butt at work, metaphorically of course. The stirring in my belly long after my butter toast and coffee is the passion with which I approach my students, whether or not they believe they’re ready to learn, or society thinks so for that matter. Despite the troubling nuances of advocating for a more holistic approach to assessment and schooling after work hours, I still have to work with the reality of keeping my job i.e. working with standards I didn’t write, administering tests I didn’t create, and yes, working in a system that consistently clashes with my ideals.

The key here is, whoever walks through my door, whenever, and however, I accept them. That’s how we build communities of learning.

Thus, I find it disheartening when we advocate for educational equity and, even amongst our ranks, our personalities and biases get in the way of achieving the goal. The question isn’t whether we have good intentions, for intentions there are plenty. We have a multitude of sides, each with their own nuance about how schools should run, each with their motives for what they promote.

At any given moment, some of our colleagues can fit into any one of these categories, but if enough of us can agree with each other on certain principles, then we build coalition. What ends up happening after a serious amount of coalition-building is that people of different races, backgrounds, and cultures fall under this big umbrella, and whether we’re forced to realize it or not, we have a greater charge to be exact in our language, more inclusive, more loving.

Some of you believe we’re right to be angry, and I agree to an extent. The field of K-12 education looks murkier by the day. Yet, anger is a primary means to an end, not the end itself. Getting angry isn’t just cursing those we disagree with, but using that energy to move families to safe harbors in disaster times. Getting angry isn’t yelling into microphones and writing in capital letters on-line; it’s walking into closing schools and wondering where our kids will go. Getting angry isn’t jealousy masked in invalid arguments about teacher voice and organizational rank; it’s about converting the energy into passion, one that allows you to embrace others and push each other in the right direction.

Anger isn’t a title we parade around like doctorates, followers, and co-signers; it’s the feeling before, during, and after we approach things with love and earnest.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at Occupy The DOE this past weekend, but if the Education Week article is true, then I’m disappointed in hearing the words “Asian bitch” being uttered. I got a love for Ceresta Smith’s work that goes back to when I first met her at the Save Our Schools March in 2011, and beyond. I understand the source of frustration, though I can’t condone it. In no way does that devalue her wonderful work, but we all have moments of pissed-off-edness fury. Between us, as Sabrina Stevens has said so eloquently, closing schools and laying waste to schools in predominantly poor neighborhoods far outweighs the damage of awful comments from either side.

So I thank all of those who participated on behalf of us. That matters.

However, for anyone to say that racial insults are “no big deal” speaks volumes to the sorts of work people of color and anyone who considers themselves under the umbrella have to do in order to make things right. As colleague Kenzo Shibata once said, “You can’t build a movement by making allies feel unwelcome and telling them to get over it.” I’d take it one step further and say that we can’t build coalition if we continue to think we have to build a movement under one or two people’s terms. I refuse to believe that we can’t coalesce around building a better education system for all children, regardless of background.

How can you say you care about children of color, but ostracize adults of color with the same breath?

The only privilege that ought to exist is the type of privilege I currently exhibit daily, working with students, many of whom don’t get exposed to adults that care about their futures. Some of my students honestly can’t get over themselves. They might come in with Doritos and soda for breakfast. They might roll their eyes and curse at me under their breath. Some of them might rarely pull out a pen or pencil even after they’ve been prodded and begged continuously for an hour. But they’re middle schoolers, an unrepentant bunch with little reason to reflect on their actions.

Adults, on the other hand, don’t get excuses. The privilege is in the hopes and dreams we have for our students, not in the ways we act towards our fellow man or woman. The privilege, to convert the anger over how our kids are treated in the system into a passion for student learning, remains at the forefront.

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

In love and struggle,


(p.s. – Thank you, MLK.)


The Second Amendment (Rebuild The Dream)

The Second Amendment (Rebuild The Dream)

A few notes:


“But solutionism, prefix or not, might encourage us to think that “the answers” (whatever those might be) lie in technology — and our hints to these so-called solutions, in tech and not in books. Ed-tech solutionism leads us think that “the answers” to education lie in ed-tech apps and in data gleaned from them and not in education history, theory, or practice. (Let alone in works of fiction like Things Fall Apart.) And just as importantly (particularly for me, as an education writer and critic), “ed-tech solutionism,” according to Morozov, forecloses our interrogating what “the problems” with education really are in the first place.”

- Audrey Watters, from her Hack Education Newsletter



Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

For some revisionists, MLK Jr. was either one of two things: a staunch conservative who lived patriotically, owned guns, and worked towards self-help, or he was a such a commercial pacifist whose message for peace followed every rule in the book and posed no real threat to the establishment. Then, there are those who, after having recognized MLK’s full history, still want to use his name for things he would never entertain, like breaking unions and limiting opportunity to a full education to only the “good” kids, whatever that means. Here, I present their rendition of the Dream Speech.

Hope it helps.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. At least for most people in this country.

[Redacted because, let's be honest: in the future, your descendants won't read the whole first part of this speech. I'll talk about the history of the Negro in this country, and my call for reparations at least in the form of full rights afforded to all who helped build this country. I'll talk about the sorts of things people should know about me, the radical me. I'll talk about an America that has yet to come through on its promises. I'll also refer to people who rather swim in hatred and bitterness than actually loving one another on a human level, but you'll ignore that, too. So let's get to the "good" part.]

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream for most of us. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood, except the most uncouth. They can wait outside.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, except if you want to arrest Black kids for misbehaving in class. That’s admissible.

I have a dream today. For most of you.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little white boys and white girls will join hands with only the best and brightest of little black boys and little black girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today. For most of you.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood as long as they’re playing the instruments we want them to. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. Most of us, anyways.

This will be the day when most of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” Every morning, without real understanding of it.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

However you decide to define freedom, and to whomever you deem.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, most of us are free at last!”

[Just sayin'.]

Jose, who wouldn’t want people to take my words and mince them for their purposes either …

p.s. – For the real text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, please click here.


Karen Lewis on Using The Bosses’ Tools [Pre-MLK Jr. Day]

January 20, 2013 Short Notes

A few notes: The Los Angeles United School District and its teachers union came to an agreement on teacher evaluation that makes some sense. [LA Daily News] John Holland outlines with no equivocation the difference between responsibility and accountability. [Future of Teaching] Sherman Dorn gives us five oft-overlooked facts about President Barack Obama that might […]

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The Barack Obamas [2011, Meet 2008]

October 16, 2011 Jose

For months, possibly years, I’ve been waiting for this Barack Obama to make an appearance to the general public: Hot-damn. The Barack Obama of 2008 made an appearance again at the MLK Memorial today to thousands of people watching in DC and on CSPAN. (For full text, here’s more.) I was not aware that any […]

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