It took the kid about 5 minutes to read one sentence. He struggled to pronounce the easiest words. I was annoyed. I said to myself, “He must be a little
slow…” And that’s the day I knew I didn’t have the patience to be a teacher. That was me at age 14 when I was tutoring elementary school students and ignorant to the inequities that contribute to achievement gaps. Now I still don’t have the patience to be a teacher—bless y’all hearts—but, I know better. I know that these kids aren’t “slow,” nor are they incapable of learning. We just live in a country that’s OK with
not teaching them how to read. And that’s more than effed up. It’s criminal. Well, morally criminal but apparently not legally criminal. Because the same constitution that protects our beloved right to bear arms
doesn’t grant access to literacy. That has to suck ass for the
68 percent of eighth-graders across the country who aren’t proficient in reading. I’m with
Leticia Chavez-Garcia. If kids aren’t being taught then why should they even have to go to school? And I wonder just how many teachers are out there who, like me, know they
shouldn’t be teaching for one reason or another but are in the profession anyway? Lastly, as my friend Vesia Hawkins points out, how can a country boast itself as the “land of the free” when it doesn’t even
acknowledge the right to literacy?
Hope: Take ’Em to Court
I’m not talking about LeBron. Let’s stop talking about the Lakers for a minute and focus on the real. Because if there’s any bandwagon we should
all be jumping on, it’s this one. Ask any educator, advocate or parent if students should have the right to a quality education—at least be able to read—and they’ll say yes without hesitation. The U.S. government, not so much. And people aren’t having it anymore. The nation’s largest pro bono law firm,
Public Counsel, represented
seven students from Detroit who sued their state for denying them a quality education. And just this week they stood trial in California where they’re awaiting a ruling on the state’s obligation to
provide access to literacy. https://twitter.com/PublicCounsel/status/1017204620362305536 The school boards in
Memphis and Nashville filed suit against their state to push for more equitable funding. And civil rights groups in
Delaware are suing for the failure to accommodate ESL students, kids from low-income families and those with disabilities. These are only a few examples. There are
more lawsuits being filed around the country. And it’s about time! We need a system that builds up and supports kids like
13-year-old author Marley Dias—and stops failing young people like
Wayne Knowland, who graduated from a high school in the Bronx when he couldn’t even read his diploma. https://educationpost.org/watch-meet-marley-dias-the-12-year-old-activist-and-author/ The Waynes of our country have suffered a
lifetime of damage and setbacks due to the inequities caused by a poor education. Worse, many of us in communities of color naively send our kids to public schools and assume our kids are getting the education they need, but in actuality, our kids really can’t read and we foolishly remain devoted to a system that’s failing us.
This is what we want for our kids. And for them to get there, they
all need and deserve access to a quality education. It’s time our country stopped lying to itself and did the right thing.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...