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My Very Real Takeaways About the SOS March

by Jose Vilson on August 2, 2011

in Jose

Allow me to keep it real with you all. Not that I need to ask permission:

1. First, I’d like to thank those of you with encouraging words about my recent speech / poem at the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC. It’ll certainly be a moment I’ll never forget. For those of you that didn’t get to see the video, both Dan Brown  and Jon Becker put versions up on their YouTube accounts. I put up the text for the speech a couple of nights before that magical Saturday. I also wrote something for GOOD Magazine about why I’m marching. Amazingly, the videos created enough buzz to be ranked either 3rd or 4th in views for the speeches, amongst names like Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, and some guy named Matt Damon. John Kuhn also provided a gem worth watching.

2. It’s important to note that, as one of the few current K-12 educators to get to speak, I took that responsibility very seriously. Not to sound self-aggrandizing, but I knew how important it was for those of us still teaching kids to have a voice. What I’m about to say is no disrespect to the experts, organizers, celebrities, parents, and media heads who participated in the march and contributed their voices. We need as many voices as possible to contribute to our movement. The old educator / non-educator dichotomy needs to give way to those who are for our coalition in one form or another and those who believe in the status quo. Yet, reading some of the feedback from the high-profile blogs, media, and marchers themselves, some implied there were no K-12 educators speaking at this event or that K-12 educators were a passive audience in this event, including from those who were actually there.

Strange.

3. The perspective was made even more complicated with the mainstream media’s coverage of Matt Damon’s participation in the march. Some critics alluded to the idea that teachers shouldn’t have to depend on Matt Damon, who spoke rather eloquently throughout the march about educational issues, to speak on our behalves. Naturally, I agree. Yet, there’s a myriad of benefits for our movement that underlies his participation. This includes smacking down ridiculous “free market reporters.” If he was good enough to represent us then, why not throughout?

4. I’m still ruminating on this concept of separating a man from his work. My fiance likes to say that the audio doesn’t fit the visual. If you’ve lived long enough on this planet, you’ll notice that a man’s words and actions can be completely different. It’s disheartening in a movement like this, but it doesn’t preclude me from continuing my participation and activism within the movement. It just means my eye becomes keener for it.

5. I genuinely believe that there are 95% of us who actually believe in the cause. This 95% will move the objectives of the SOS and will do everything in their power to do what’s right for our students. The other 5%, the ones that can really do some damage, fall into a few categories, but it’s often a strand of selfishness that pervades their thinking. For instance, they might say they’re for a particular group being represented in this space, but only if they’re leading it. If they’re not leading it, then that group was never represented. Any new initiative makes it super-easy for someone to see things as a movement for self. That’s why we need to see things for the bigger picture, and the bigger picture doesn’t always have you in front.

6. The next step for us? Well, we can only do what we can do. I don’t believe the organization has to focus on just a few objectives because of how many arms we have. We have a few guiding principles, but there’s a few (alternative / preferable) ways to get to it. On my end, I’d love to have another round of bloggers discussing what their personal next steps will be under the EDUSolidarity tag like we did before. I also see that we have some ways to go before we use words like “racism,” “sexism,” and “ageism” effectively to talk about what’s happening in our worlds. I also see a need for talking about how teachers advocate for themselves, lest we lock ourselves in the teachers’ lounge.

Overall, my experience was really positive, and there’ll be more after this soon …

Jose, who prefers to discuss ideas instead of people except when necessary …

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