“History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.” -Carter G Woodson.
This has been an intense few weeks to say the very least. For better or worse, things are changing dramatically for our country. Controversy surrounds the recently confirmed Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos. The new administration has promised to route federal public school funding toward voucher programs. Also, recently, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced H.R. 899, a bill that would effectively do away with the Department of Education. State and local governments would manage public education. Simply put, public education as we have come to know it, may be a thing of the past.
While I will not opine on political matters, I do want to encourage you with a few tips to help keep things in perspective. These are not steps to take so much as things to consider as you make educational plans for your children in this volatile system.
First of all, you run this!
Seriously. It seems overly simplistic. On the surface, the best truths usually are. You are the parent and the ultimate decision maker for your children. The system, the bureaucracy, the powers that be, the decision makers, etc., are supposed to serve you. If you have found that they do not, nothing is keeping you from (1) speaking up about what concerns you, (2) using your vote and your capital to make changes, (3) abandoning the system altogether. You are not powerless or hopeless. You have the authority to dictate what you and your family will/will not accept. Use it!
You can opt out of the hype.
This is a delicate one for several reasons. Everyone thinks his or her side is telling the whole truth and the other side is out to destroy the world. Attention-grabbing headlines have us on emotional roller coasters. “News” comes at you fast but not entirely accurate and by the time you have cooled down from the heat of one schism there is another controversy knocking at your door. I am not suggesting that you bury your head in the stand and ignore your surroundings. Quite the contrary, I am proposing that you be more intentional about pursuing accurate information. This might mean less social media and more transcripts, CSPAN, and attendance at city council meetings. It means reading actual documents and not relying on summaries. Just opt out of the hype and determine what real impact these changes will have on your family.
I do not want to make light of the impact of these changes. I was brought up in great public schools. I have also spent years volunteering in “high risk” public elementary and high schools. I pause when I hear phrases like things should be “left to the state and local government” due my recollection of the many historical atrocities justified as “states rights” issues. I know that concepts like “school choice” don’t always play out well for disenfranchised populations in the same way that the desegregation of schools didn’t make schools any more equal or, in some cases, didn’t happen at all (see housing discrimination, “white flight”, gerrymandering/redistricting, the evolution of ghettos…sigh. But I digress.) This is why I brought my homeschoolers with me when volunteered at a public school. My decision to educate my children at home is not a declaration of war against those that decide otherwise. In fact, the privilege of being home with my children fuels my appreciation for teachers and the education I received. So, if you are concerned, help. Reach out.
I was going to write this long disclaimer about not wanting to get political or start drama but decided against it. People with an eye for drama find it at every turn. My intent is to remind you of your power; to redirect you to your autonomy. Laws change. Systems come and go. Your authority in the lives of your children is not diminished by the changing winds.
Let me know if this encouraged you. Feel free you share what concerns you have about the recent changes in educational leadership.