A phrase many of us have heard as we have battled for public education, uttered by naysayers and skeptics, is “Why bother? You can’t change anything.”
But any keen observer or philosopher of the universe knows the opposite to be true: That the only constant in our world IS change. But any kind of change to an existing system requires an agitation to that system. A body in motion stays in motion and patterns (even unhealthy ones that are not in our own best interest) will continue to cycle unless something or someone creates a disturbance to its motion. Such “disturbances” cause a shift in the equilibrium; a “tipping point.”
Seattle teachers at Garfield and Ballard High School and teachers from the Hamburg Central School District in NY have brought the slowly growing resistance against corporate reform to its tipping point. As the Seattle teachers refuse to give the MAP tests, Hamburg teachers are standing up against an unfair teacher evaluation system. Teachers everywhere are beginning to find their voices and proclaim loudly that “the emperor has no clothes.” The realization that education “reform” is ultimately geared toward destroying public education and profiting corporate interest — is now morphing into what we are willing to say, and more importantly, what we are willing to do about it.
In chaos theory, these actions might be called a perturbation. A perturbation is a “disturbance of motion, course, arrangement, or state of equilibrium; especially : a disturbance of the regular and usually elliptical course of motion of a celestial body that is produced by some force additional to that which causes its regular motion.” The additional forces that keep the existing system in regular motion are greed and self-interest of a corporate-ideology. Add a few doses of fear and intimidation in for good measure.
What is more interesting is what Webster lists as the only Antonym: unconcern
So, the opposite of agitation is a lack of caring, or unconcern. How long will the media, our policy makers, our government leaders, and general public remain unconcerned about what is happening to public education? We can no longer afford to take the course of inaction. The teachers of Seattle and Hamburg have shown us that change, that action, that CARING is not only possible, it is very necessary!
As one teacher from Seattle states: “We are not troublemakers nor do we want to impede the high functioning of our school. We are professionals who care deeply about our students and cannot continue to participate in a practice that harms our school and our students.”
What these actions tell the rest of us is that we do not wait for a system which will afford the opening we need to dismantle a corporate paradigm for public education. We make the openings, and set into motion a dynamic system of interactions that disrupt oppressive systems that use children for profit, and find the democratic rights of everyone else but themselves…expendable.
One simple action that everyone can take, to show your solidarity, is to visit the Buffalo news website and contribute words of support for their efforts:
Unlike the corporate reformers (aka Billionaire’s Boys Club), these actions were not pressed upon these individuals from “the top down” using political and economic pressures which “make them an offer they can’t refuse,” nor were the actors in this resistance motivated by professional or economic gain. The only ways in which the reform band wagon can claim its members is by buying them off. But the actions of those in Seattle and New York who have the clarity and courage of their conviction, are generating a change that emerges from their self-organization. No one told them to do this. No one is rewarding them for doing this. They are doing it because they know it’s the best way to serve their students and their profession. This indeed is the sign of necessary and inevitable change.
We, the administrators of United Opt Out National, stand in solidarity with those fighting for our schools, for our children, and for our democratic right to a sustainable, equitable, and meaningful public education system. We stand with those who wish to agitate the existing system, and imagine together what education might become — if enough are willing to care, to risk, and to take action in order to manifest what we know to be possible. None us can stand idle any longer and pretend that this is a spectator sport.