Complaining Doesn’t Win Educational Revolutions – Civic Engagement Does! Here Are Some First Steps from Your Local Activist.

I had a whole blog post planned out about yet another example of educational disparities on Long Island  when I read this in ERASE Racism:  

The vast majority of Long Island students attend low‐ and average‐need districts. Only 14% of all Long Island students attend high‐need districts. There are, however, extremely large racial and ethnic differences: 76% of all students in high‐need districts are black and Hispanic. Moreover, the percentage of black and Hispanic students who are schooled in high‐need districts is ten times the percentage of white students who are schooled in high‐ need districts. Given that education is the central factor for upward mobility in our society, this situation predisposes racial and ethnic minorities to further disadvantage, which in the long run is a societal cost shared by everyone alike.

Did you catch that? Let me break it down for you:

If, as research shows, upward mobility is directly related to one’s quality and level of education, then this vast disparity along racial lines excludes marginalized groups from access to opportunity that is at the heart of the American dream.

So what do we do about this? Where do we go from here? Whose problem is this? I can spend every blog post highlighting what’s wrong, but that’s a single-pronged approach to a multi-faceted dilemma. The question I’m asked most when I write and speak about this and other related issues is, “What can I do about it?”.

Here are a few suggestions:

Firstly, get actively involved with your school board. Attend community meetings. Don’t become complacent or naive in thinking that liking something on social media or sharing a post that really resonates with you is enough. It’s far from it. Physically get up and get your mind, body, and voice into the actual educational fabric of your school/community.

That’s what the residents of Roosevelt did after those three White teachers displayed nooses in their classroom. (I wrote about this last week.) According to Newsday,

More than 150 concerned parents, community members and lawmakers attended a special meeting of the Roosevelt school board Wednesday to express their outrage and learn more about the image of two nooses that was displayed as part of a photographic collage in a middle school classroom.

When’s the last time a school board meeting was attended by 150 community members? I hate that this incident had to happen to gather such large numbers of engagement but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased at what the turnout indicates: accountability, ownership, investment, activism on behalf of our most precious commodities, our children and their education. Let’s replicate this energy across this City, this State, and this Nation!

Secondly, see what public positions are open for election and throw your hat into the ring! Become a school board member! Become a Library Trustee! Run for community watch president! These are positions that hold great power and that immediately affect your community.. Meet your neighbors. Sign some petitions. Listen to what candidates for these positions are saying and assess how that does or does not fit with your vision for where your children, your schools and your community should be. It’s amazing what happens when we come together for a common cause. All the divisiveness seems to fade away and it’s replaced with a sense of targeted purpose and unified alignment.

Lastly, get acquainted with the current policies and laws up for election in your district and write or call your representatives with your comments/concerns. They work for you and are supposed to be representing what their constituents want – not what the lobbyists want. How can we hold them accountable if we are not doing our part by opening up a dialogue? Without us, they can not win elections. Let’s wield that power and not take the complacent approach that resigns itself to mediocrity or defeat. Revolutions are never fought or won like this and we are in a time where revolutionary tactics are required in order for our children, us, and our society to advance past the quagmire of racism, misogyny, and classism that presently has us bound.

Eric Liu writes in The Atlantic, “

Americans today are rushing to make up for decades of atrophy and neglect in civic education and engagement. But as they do so it’s important to remember that citizenship is about more than know-how. It’s also about “know-why”—the moral purposes of self-government. Citizenship in a republic requires not just literacy in power but also a grounding in character. Power literacy means understanding systems of law, custom, and institutions—and acting with skill to move those systems. Civic character is more than personal virtue. It is about character in the collective—mutuality, reciprocity, respect, service, justice—and the prosocial ethics of being a member of the body.

Complaining Doesn’t Win Educational Revolutions – Civic Engagement Does! Get Involved! See you at the next community meeting!

What do you think?

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