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Not only has the world not changed, it seems to have gone back to something very ugly that I used to learn about as “history.” Outright bigotry in our political discourse, dangerous people who feel entitled to act as hateful as they want, and environmental changes that I can’t look directly in the face. I would like to do something revolutionary to change what I see as insurmountable obstacles to a better future.
As a public school educator, I champion the idea of giving the best education to as many people as possible. And despite the demonization of my profession, I look around my school and I see nothing but extraordinary, hard-working, and successful teachers. Yet somehow the country as a whole still can’t seem to do what it takes to attain universal quality education.
I keep coming back to the words of George Carlin, paraphrased here. “The reason we don’t have quality education in this country is because the owners of this country don’t want that. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking.”
Carlin’s argument, and it’s very hard to shake, is that if people are intelligent, critical thinkers capable of communicating with each other, then they won’t serve the owners’ purposes of being obedient workers. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Yet when I watch politicians systematically ignore or argue against reasonable, common sense funding of public education, I begin to think that, as a public school educator, I am fighting a battle with a very strong, very invisible enemy.
Therefore, teaching becomes a revolutionary act. It becomes an act of defiance, resistance, simply to teach mathematics to children who will need to be smarter than their richer, more powerful peers simply to survive. And teaching music?
Well, if I can teach those children not only to add numbers, but to respect each other long enough to collaborate, then I’ve got them talking and sharing. And if I can teach them to write music, then I’ve got them thinking for themselves. And if I can teach them to love who they are and what they can offer, then I’ve given them hope.
What can I do to change the world, in the face of the sickening powerlessness I feel today? Should I read three hours of news a day to try to ferret out which stories are true? Should I march and yell and scream in public rallies?
Maybe, but what I’m doing now is more powerful than that. And if you want the world to change, you’ll support me and other teachers as we do what we do. And if you really want the world to change, you’ll make sure that everybody has access to what we do.
Then you’ll be a revolutionary.