I was visiting with my parents the other day and checked Facebook on my phone. My mom commented that the world sure had changed since she was a kid. I thought about that for a while. Even since I was a kid the everyday experiences of young people is drastically different. I remember trying to save Snoops Doggystyle album because the stereo ate the tape. I thought I was balling when I upgraded problems and need to know how to keep the Discman from skipping on the bus. Not to mention how cool I felt when I got a pager! I memorized important numbers and had to actually be home to not miss whatever my favorite show was at the time.
That is all ancient history to my students. They all have a cell phone with access to the internet right there in their pockets. All their music is streaming and they can just on demand any show they missed. The internet has changed the world. There is one place, though, that remains far too familiar, the classroom.
Walk into almost any school –even some of the “innovative” and “cutting edge” ones – and you will see much of the same things that defined education decades ago. It is still top down banking style education which emphasizes rote memorization; the only things slightly new are the standardized tests hoops students are required to jump through.
It’s not that education doesn’t require memorization or that assessing progress and having accountability around learning isn’t important, it is. The problem lies in the fact, as I wrote about here, that schools are meant to reproduce peoples place in society. Working class families go to school with other working class families. Professionals with professionals and so on. This was true when we were still an industrial nation and it is still true today. And as long as it is true there is no chance we will see significant improvements to the state of education in our city.
The time has come to demand a courageous reimagining of what education should be. The time has come to demand that the production of knowledge be beneficial to communities. There is no better time than right now. As indigenous people and their accomplices come together to protect the water and remind us the earth is sacred, Black people around the country are asserting, what Marc Lamont Hill calls their “somebodyness”, and an increasing number of white folks are awakening to the realities of white supremacy it is finally time schools reflect the ideal of justice.
This is not some abstract utopian ideal. There are tangible, practical and immediate things that schools can do to align with the demands of the community. These ideas include but are certainly not limited to:
- Required ethnic study courses
- Green energy and sustainability courses
- Investment in wrap around services to facilitate healing from the traumas of poverty and white supremacy
- Fully funded restorative justice programs and an immediate end to police in schools
- Community boards that provide accountability
- An explicit focus on the various manifestations (including financial payments) of reparations for Native and African Americans
These are the things I will be looking for from the candidates for school board as part of the Animate the Race campaign. The next event is tomorrow night at the Central Minneapolis Meet & Greet at the American Swedish Institute from 6-7:30pm. It is a free event and open to the public. Come here for yourself what the candidates have to say.