To all my disrupter friends, please accept this letter as my resignation from the so-called “education reform movement.”
For more than 20 years I’ve been lost in the reform forest, but no more. For too long I’ve relied on false prophets who have filled me with false consciousness and bribed me with bank statements.
I have new advisors now. Many of them. They stay in touch with me daily, contact my family members, inquire about my personal life, and offer constant feedback about my career. They have taken a lot of care to educate me and I appreciate it.
While there are too many of them to count, here’s an incomplete picture to give you an idea:
These are people who have dedicated themselves to tirelessly rescuing lost fools and returning them to their forever families in government schools. What amazing grace.
They want me to tell you a few things, so here goes.
I renounce every critique I’ve ever made about the American public education system. Our public schools are the best in the world if you remove the children who aren’t white. The test scores don’t lie when white kids pass them. Unfortunately, the tests don’t tell us anything meaningful about nonwhite people.
Our nation’s teachers are faultless heroes. Their unions are freedom fighters. If there are racialized outcomes it is because children are too poor to learn, their parents too irresponsible to teach them, and their politicians refuse to provide schools more money to deal with them.
If we really want better outcomes we will split them into small cohorts and send them with extra funds to white schools where they can learn how to be fully human.
I regret having promoted the idea that there was more to the story than that.
Also, can we acknowledge there is only one way to do school? It has to be state-delivered through local school districts with board members selected through low-turnout elections that are dominated by public employee unions. That worked so well before the anti-democratic reformsters started pushing the idea that parents should “vote with their feet” and that their “money follows the child.”
Let’s get back to good. Back to the time when public schools worked for everyone.
To be clear, there is no such thing as elitism or racism or white privilege among liberals. I need to stop saying there is. To accuse them of that is a wasted use of the race card, especially when they are the only people who truly know what’s best for us. I should thank my advisors above for being relentless resisters to reformsters, champions against charters and choice, and total titans of teacherphilia.
More than anything, I must thank them for providing the thoughtful and persuasive language to help me understand my errant ways.
When one of them called me a “paid whore,” it was a just and measured correction intended to make me a better person. I want to be better, right? Thankfully, she was there to help with an abundance of cultural competence.
When another one of them called me “Uncle Tom,” it was to force a teachable moment meant for me – through his skillful instruction – to awaken and learn my place.
When several of them call me a “shill” for “dark money,” I should realize anything starting with “dark” is bad. There’s no history of psychology behind that, it just is what it is.
Nearly all of my new advisors have helped me understand that I shouldn’t be paid for my nonprofit. Especially as much as I earn. My level is reserved only for pro-union nonprofit leaders and the consultants they hire. People of color need to do the work the way we’ve always always done it – on our own time, with few resources, and without griping about being treated equal to whites.
And, if I think for one hot minute that our great public schools do poorly with children of color it’s not because I have experienced it – or have seen family and friends experience it – no, it’s only because plutocrats give me grants and a script to speak.
Truly, this privatizing thing is taking over my life. Just because I have a handful of kids in low-rated traditional public schools with a majority of kids of color who are majority low-income; I shouldn’t point it out when public education defenders are graduates of private schools, or when they send their own kids to private schools (or to tony public schools) that are whiter and more affluent than mine.
True public education supporters know that only colored folks need to put their kids in bad district schools to be considered true public education supporters.
How dare I think I have the capacity to understand such complicated things?
I should repent. Shut my mouth. Take whatever the district system gives me. Accept it that some kids will succeed and others will occupy the hidden corners of our amazing system.
If I want to truly be a good citizen I would show up when teachers tell me to show up, wear the t-shirt they tell me to wear, berate the politicians they tell me to berate, hate the people who look like me that they tell me to hate, and remember to bring the signs and bullhorns when there is a rally for money or a better teacher’s contract.
I should not ask questions about teaching, learning, or academic growth. That’s just a bunch of voodoo cooked up by public education haters.
I must stop obsessing about poor families being on a predictable path to economic exile, and remember that the white middle-class college-educated people working public school jobs with full benefits are the real victims of the system. We must stop bashing them and pretending students who aren’t learning have it half as bad as their teachers.
If I ever I catch myself dreaming about new opportunities for my kids to learn, excel, go to college, and earn a living in defiance of the damning statistics or their zip code or their race or their family structure or their economic advantages, I should find the closest well-served white family to educate me about my errors in logic. Or, just ask my Twitter advisors. They have all the answers.
Wait. This doesn’t feel right. [wakes up from bad dream]
The truth is, I resigned from education reform years ago. Prescribing “reform” to fix the traditional education is like taking melatonin to cure shingles. You don’t reform injustice, you abolish it and replace it with something fairer and more effective.
I’m an abolitionist.
The system is rigged and it doesn’t believe in the potential of our children or see the worth of our parents or respect the depth of our history or honor our historic right to be as free as we want to be. That’s our problem.
If telling you all that is a crime then send me all your tone police and all your Twitter pensionistas so that I can offer them all the folding chairs ensuring they take all the seats.
Citizen Stewart’s blog was originally published on CitizenStewart.com