It’s New Year’s Eve and by now you’ve come across a plethora of posts daring you, bullying you to leave behind various people, ideas, social media behavior in 2018. Annoying, but if it declutters your timeline and disciplines your social media behavior, then go Kondo (the Japanese art of organizing). You’ve probably also read/glanced at 4,000 “best of 2018” articles/blogs from the authors of said articles/blogs. Nope, not doing that here.
Like most bloggers, I reviewed my blogs, tweets and Facebook posts from the last twelve months and was reminded of heartbreaking tragedies that I’d prefer to forget. But there’s nothing to be gained from willful ignorance. However, taking that trip down memory allowed me to see more evidence of the gap between the promise of public education and the product. Also missing was any hint of deference or basic consideration to the very people responsible for populating public schools — parents — underscoring the urgency for parents and guardians to realize their power and work it.
So, in keeping with end-of-year list listing, here’s one for you to take with you into 2019. A list inclusive of events, quotes, laws, and people from 2018 that should inform the year ahead. Events we should never forget, plights from which we must learn, and ideas that empower and motivate each of us to do the next big thing for children.
1. Resolve to Never Forget
2018 is the year for the most gun violence in schools. According to the Guardian, “[t]he NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security counted 94 school shooting incidents in 2018, a near 60% increase on the previous high, 59, an unwanted record set in 2006.”
Never forget the seventeen students and faculty murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The nine murdered at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX and the thousands of youth that die every day on America’s streets.
2. Resolve to Be Part of the Solution to the Literacy Crisis
In a system replete with challenges, it seems the most difficult job facing public education is to transition young readers into literate citizens. After years of blaming poverty and parents, 2018 showed us two very different approaches to the literacy discussion.
First, you might remember a federal judge ruling stating the children of Michigan, namely Detroit, had no “right to literacy,” supporting the state’s inferior and criminal delivery of “education” to the area’s most marginalized students. If it happened in Michigan, the home of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, it’s headed your way.
In a nice turn of events, soon after the anti-student federal ruling, I listened to a podcast on the difficulty of teaching reading and the refusal of educators and leaders to acknowledge (or read) the science of reading. Emily Hanford of American Public Media produced an audio documentary titled Hard Words and it was the most refreshing, inspired content to come across my computer in years. Important to note: Parents are not to blame but are vital to literacy efforts. Schools of Education responsible for preparing teachers need to get their acts together and school leaders must stop sleeping on phonics instruction.
3. Resolve to Choose Your Choice
Every day I see and hear complaints about charter schools or school districts with so many choices that it renders traditional schools impotent. Let me make a suggestion, show me the person that cries against alternatives to educating children and I’ll show you a parent who can buy or masterfully navigate their way to a great education. Every person I know fighting against charters or choice of any kind lives in a great neighborhood, knows how to work the system, and their kids enjoy some type of choice. Whether it’s by assignment or application, choose your choice and stand by it. Also, don’t work against others’ right to alternatives.
Much to the dismay of the loyalists, Black parents are thinking and deciding for themselves – not at the behest of ed reformers as if often promoted (which is insulting as hell). Black parents and other parents of color are supporting their assigned school, choosing the charter that fits, educating their children in their kitchens, and opting for private schools. I know parents in every category and guess which group is wrong for their choices? Not one.
4. Resolve To Participate In The Rising Parent Tide
I’ve read many 2018 stories of parents having their say and policy organizations finally realizing the untapped power of parents. At the beginning of 2018, I wrote a piece for The 74 about the parent gap and how folding parents into their child’s education efforts also help build parents skills and leadership capacity. Over the last twelve months, I’ve noticed more parents such Inga M. Cotton who writes for San Antonio Charter Moms and Cheryl Kirk, Indianapolis mother of three, using their experiences to help others.
Also, pay attention to the parent warriors organizing in a city near you – Memphis, Oakland, Atlanta, and Nashville – we see you!
5. Resolve to honor THE quote of 2018
“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” – Oprah Winfrey receiving the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award in January 2018.
Happy New Year, my friends.