A dearth of presidential leadership that led to the politicization of wearing masks—the single most effective tool in the fight to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Tens of thousands of students without access to virtual education.
Racial injustice continuing to plague the nation.
Grandparents unable to hug their grandkids.
2020 was a year to be forgotten.
Or was it?
As the adage goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
2020, with all of its horror and pain carries with it lessons we must heed if we are to seize this moment and make 2021 the first year of a new renaissance of justice.
Here’s what I will fight for in 2021:
Dismantling the Digital Divide
In the wake of COVID, educational access depended upon internet access and as such more than 15 million students in the wealthiest country in the history of the world could not go to school. This is unconscionable and embarrassing. The time is long since past for the FCC to step up to its mantle of leadership and make the internet the 21st century equivalent of the 20th century’s telephone.
This is a matter of civil rights. If a student is wheelchair-bound, it is their federally protected civil right that an access ramp be built to ensure they can go to school. The same must be done for internet access. We can no longer be a nation that educates only those who can log on. The digital divide must be closed now and forever.
This means more than putting up a yard sign or reading the latest bestseller on being anti-racist. It’s about scrutinizing our day to day practices; calling out those we love for the racist behaviors they exhibit with nary a thought. It means confronting the discomfort that comes with rocking the racial status quo.
It means de-centering my white voice and abdicating my privilege. It means educating my children in ways I was not. It means facing the oppressor I have inside me. 2021 is the year of facing the racist within, and fighting for its erasure.
Radical School Funding Reform
America’s education system is a rigged game in large part due to the way we have chosen to fund our schools. When school budgets are derived from local property tax wealth, as it is just about everywhere in the US, the result is obvious; rich schools for the rich and poor schools for the poor.
In 2021, there must be a multi-front attack on these entrenched funding formulas that perpetuate educational justice in every corner of America. Litigation at the state levels to find inequitable funding formulas unconstitutional must be brought in every state with new funding formulas drawn up using a combination of formulas that ensure that all districts receive a baseline amount that ensures fully resourced schools with extra dollars apportioned by categorical weights such as poverty, trauma, special education and english language learning.
Agitate, Agitate, Agitate
2020 has taught us many things, among them the power of collective voice and action. We took to the streets and demanded action, and while there is so very much more work to be done, the enemy of progress is our complacency. When the day comes when we can finally put away our masks, we must ensure that we do not also table our convictions and fall back into our old ways of tolerating the intolerable. When asked by a young man what to do with his life, Frederick Douglass answered, “Agitate, agitate, agitate.” We must never stop agitating for justice, in 2021 and beyond.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...