Yesterday was the first quiet day on the education interwebs after last week's tempest, and it was a good time for some serious reflection about how the education reform coalition might coalesce after some house cleaning. Brandie Burris-Gallagher shared some good advice for the white allies in the mix:
As a black woman in education reform, I feel the impact of white supremacy in this work on a daily basis. This oppression does not just come from those who deny importance of race in the education reform movement. Just as frequently, I am oppressed by individuals who are self-professed allies, individuals who agree with and perhaps have signed Mr. Cohen’s letter; from micro-aggressions in meetings, to covert acts like pushing out educators and advocates of color because “they are not the right fit.”
My message to the white allies who signed this letter is: Thank you for taking a stand, but please know that this is not enough. Look inward when calling out oppression and bias and seek opportunities elevate the voices of your colleagues of color.
I can almost guarantee that everyone who signed the open letter has made serious mistakes, particularly on issues of race and representation, in their lives. I know that I have. We will be sharing some of the stories of personal growth in the coming days. I deeply appreciate Burris-Gallagher's push to take this effort from the theoretical to the practical. Martín Pérez has some practical advice for coalition building:
It is exactly because of the scale and complexity of the challenges we face, and the numerous gaps left unfilled, that increasingly the best work in education advocacy is being carried out by coalitions that span the traditional divides. That means intentionally elevating both ideologically diverse and racially and socioeconomically diverse leaders because we all have something to contribute that is unique and different. Making room for a greater diversity of voices doesn’t have to mean asking anyone to step back from their work ... Over the past year I have witnessed time and time again how the education reform community in Arizona has embraced a broader conception of leadership. It starts at the top with leaders—like Lisa Keegan, the former superintendent of public instruction and the executive director of A for Arizona, and Tommy Espinoza, president and CEO of Raza Development Fund ... While I am still early in my journey as an education advocate, I am convinced that the states that will make the most progress in transforming their education systems will be the ones that adopt a mindset not of scarcity but of abundance.
The concept of abundance is a beautiful one, and I share Pérez's belief that it is possible to assemble a larger coalition in many more places. It is imperative, though, that the larger coalition incorporates not just the bodies - but the ideas and perspectives - of its members. Derrell Bradford makes a similar point, although I don't agree that this is a conversation about theories of "markets" vs. "equity." That's the frame Pondiscio established, but the ideological frame is a distraction from the project of expanding the tent to include more folks who want to dramatically improve vulnerable kids' lives.
I believe that [dual language instruction is] important because we are more connected than before.There are many places in the world where people have to speak at the very least two languages. I think that it’s wonderful to learn how to express oneself in more than one language, to be able to travel, work, have friends … I believe that it’s important for children, for example, in the United States, because many families that speak English at home have not thought about the importance of [speaking Spanish]. The ones that speak Spanish at home sometimes want to speak their home language [at school], their first language, and it’s very sad [when it cannot happen].
This country is way behind the rest of the world in making sure that our children can navigate a multi-lingual society, so it's good to see this idea getting some traction. There's an unfortunate bias in our schools that dual language instruction is for the benefit of non-native speakers of English, but that's short-sighted, as the English-speaking students experience massive benefits from learning a second language as early as possible, when the neurolinguistic underpinnings of language acquisition are still sharp.