I am wondering how many conversations continue to be squelched and how many voices we lose because we're afraid of hearing things that might rattle the comfort of the status quo. In Arizona, many of you know, the state has banned Mexican American Studies classes--of both literature and history. There is so much fear and hatred behind this decision that it's actually difficult to wrap your mind around. I have a lot of things I'm angry about in the world of education, but studying multiple perspectives and disrupting the belief that history is a single narrative that we can weave neatly in a 300 page U.S. History textbook? That's not one of the things we should be angry about.
We should be angry about the fact that high school students, specifically students of Mexican American and African American descent are dropping out of high school at rates that should alarm even the most callous person. We should be angry that we live in a country where income disparity and class distinctions have become more and more rigid, and more and more difficult to move beyond. We should be angry about the fact that education has been co-opted by corporate drones who perpetuate the myth that thinking is actually a negative thing, and accountability (in all of its misguided forms) is the answer. And we must stop making decisions that are driven by hatred. Our responsibility to our youth has to be borne of love, of trust, and the belief that doing what's right is not always what's easy, and it doesn't always benefit someone's bottom line in the short term (read: prisons), but the dividends in the future are exponential.
And we take a day out of school to honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. And I wish, very much, that we would spend the rest of our days in school with a little more focus on his memory, his ideas and ideals.
When did creativity, critical thought, and willingness to engage in civil discourse become scary? Ahhh... yeah, it always has been, at least to the people for whom the status quo is hugely beneficial.
I work with students every day whose families have come to the United States from places that are battle grounds, where potable water is in short supply, where caste systems and racial distinctions have left them without citizenship in any country. And I work with students who believe that America is a land of opportunity. And I want so badly for this to be true for them. I have a dream.