Education and Social Justice

This is my last blog post of the summer. Over the past 9 weeks I have learned so much more about education than I could ever imagine. My learning has come through experiences at Project LIFT, workshops with my fellow Education Scholars, and lastly a new found interest in reading both newspapers and scholarly articles on the subject. As I begin to reflect on my Summer experiences one thing has become clear to me. Anyone who truly cares about education reform will see educational inequity as a social justice issue that transcends education.

As I touched on in my previous blog post, the education system lies within a societal structure that is inherently racist. To achieve true educational equality in our country we must make a concerted effort to fight for racial equality in our nation. That being said we have a long way to go, but the path towards educational equality will be accelerated if our education reformers advocate for racial equity. However, I do not believe advocating for racial equity within the schools or districts will solve anything. In today’s world you will be accused for race-bating in a post-racial society. So what options do we have?

I firmly believe in top to bottom change. While many people including my peers  think gradual school level change is the answer to education reform I can’t help but point out that it is this gradual change and type of reform that has reinforced and maintained power structures within the system. Even in the isolated examples of gradual change in NC being somewhat effective I don’t think it is the answer. The true power lies in the hands of our state and federal politicians. In NC the remarkable education progress that was made over several years under the leadership of Jim Hunt and Mike Easley has been erased and dismantled in the matter of two years. At the end of the day the function of the county districts and local schools is dictated by state policy. Unfortunately our federal government hasn’t passed effective wide sweeping education legislation since Lyndon Johnson was in office so at this point in time I don’t see anything happening on that level.

 

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 11.12.08 PMWe must control the future of education by electing politicians who are share the belief that education is an issue of social justice. Politicians who believe access to a quality and fair education is a right not a privilege. If we truly care about education reform than we will take a more active role in promoting the well-being of those who serve to benefit the most from wide-sweeping and meaningful education reform. When the Republicans in our state legislature gerrymander districts and restrict voting rights we must take notice. Our ability to enact long lasting change becomes that much more difficult when our more progressive politicians lose voters to these restrictive measures. These same politicians in Raleigh are cutting teacher assistants, pre-k programs, ESL programs, effectively reducing teacher pay, and  removing teacher tenure. Good luck instituting positive micro level change when no high quality teachers want to come to NC to teach. Education reformers must acknowledge the intertwinement and layering of these issues. Voting restriction, racial inequality, corporate dollars influencing our politicians, cutting of social welfare program, and many other pieces of legislation linked to our education system. Our state legislature has launched a war on public education directly and indirectly. It is time for those who believe educational equity is essential to American Democracy to stand up and fight by speaking out and pushing to elect politicians who are vested in giving every child in North Carolina the right to a quality education.

 

Comments

  1. Emily Rapport says

    Great post, Kassim. I think your point about education being inherently tied to other power structures is so key, and it’s clear how your experience this summer has helped you make those connections. I totally agree with you philosophically that politicians and legislation at the top should play a major role in reshaping education in our country, but practically, I’m so disillusioned by the political arena (especially in NC) that I have a hard time imagining the government as an effective vehicle for widespread educational change. Ironically, it seems like it would take a grassroots, bottom-to-top effort of community organizing/voter mobilization in order to get the people we would want in office who could make that top-to-bottom change. In that sense, I think micro level change in individual schools is necessary in terms of creating the kind of culture that could empower communities to seek that kind of change.

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