I believe in education. Truly, I do. I believe in the production of knowledge. I believe that when we produce knowledge in community that we can solve the world’s problems. I don’t have a lot of faith in schools.
In the documentary film Precious Knowledge there is a scene where a teacher is complaining about how dysfunctional the students are and educator Jeff Duncan-Andrade responds by saying “I have never met a kid with a dysfunctional relationship to learning. I’ve met a lot of kids with a dysfunctional relationship to school.” In my years as a classroom teacher I can personally attest to the truth of Duncan-Andrade’s statement. So often I see beautiful, powerful young people being told that they are broken. Being told that what they know, what they have lived, what is in their bones, is a lie. Too often the expectation is that these bright shining stars dim their light and contort themselves to fit into a way of knowing which is openly hostile and violent to their truths. And they are expected to smile and say thank you.
This is wrong.
Education does not naturally equate to school. Schools, in American society have always been much more about social control and conditioning than anything else. This stands in stark contrast to the role of education in society. James Baldwin understood this dynamic: “one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person…” What would it look like if education didn’t lead to war with society?
This is the question I believe we need to have an answer to. We need people who understand that the role of school is to facilitate education, and the role of education, as Baldwin put it, is “to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not.” We need people who have faith in the community to solve its own problems instead of being the source of those problems.
“I have never met a kid with a dysfunctional relationship to learning. I’ve met a lot of kids with a dysfunctional relationship to school.”
To find answers to those questions is why I took this role with Animate the Race. I believe we need to elect people to the school board who will unapologetically challenge any attempts at reducing our young people to test scores and numbers. I think we need to identify the people who will reject pragmatism and understand that what’s practical is dictated by what there is political will for. We need people with vision who will tell unfiltered truths and demand those truths be central to the curriculum. I look forward to learning more about the candidates and building with all of you!