This Is Why the Oppressed Can't Get No Sleep

While many were celebrating the Fourth of July with hamburgers, hotdogs, fireworks and good ole fashioned apple pie, I was rereading Frederick Douglass’ speech of July 5, 1852, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” and applying it to the state of education for Black, Brown and poor children in America. Why wasn't I out celebrating the Fourth? Because the “status-quo protectors" and oppressors #StayWoke too. They don’t take a day off. The status-quo protectors/oppressors make a living off the backs of the oppressed! They see price tags on the lives of our Black, Brown, and poor children and we all know they will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to “keep” failing schools open for business. Every day, parents, mostly of color and the poor, must face the reality that their children are trapped in schools that cannot and, in many cases, will not treat their children fairly nor equitably educate them. Let me be very clear. The status-quo folk plan our oppression daily— even on holidays—to deny our children of color and the poor equitable access to safe and quality schools. The status-quo folk plan our oppression daily— even on holidays—to deny parents their right to  choose the best educational opportunity for their children. So, as a Black mom, I choose to #StayWoke, stay engaged and plan daily— even on holidays—so that I can fight back effectively against injustice. I plan daily to educate, empower and mobilize those of like hearts and minds to help keep the many freedoms that so many of my ancestors bled for and were lynched and killed for. I plan daily to protect the most vulnerable of our village. Why? Because one thing is certain as Paulo Freire outlines in the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed:" The status quo is composed of “Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”

Don't Sleep on Teachers Unions

And after reading what the NEA (National Education Association) was up to over the holiday, boy was I right to stay engaged. While I wasn’t surprised, I did grow weary when I read the July 3 article from USA Today entitled  Teachers’ Union Considers Hard Line on Charter Schools. This article outlines the NEA’s new policy on charter schools and it’s clearly meant to misguide parents. This hugely powerful organization that mostly protects adults over students plans to work against parents that choose to educate and keep their children safe by exercising school choice for their babies. And for the life of me, I do not understand how other people’s family choices about school models becomes the NEA’s business! Politico’s Morning Education email blast states:
Teachers Union Adopts New Position on Charter Schools: As anticipated, the National Education Association on Tuesday adopted a tougher stance on charter schools. The roughly 7,000 delegates at the NEA annual meeting in Boston voted to approve a statement that is more forceful and direct in outlining its concerns with charter schools. The statement calls for the schools to be authorized by local school boards, demonstrate they’re helping to improve the local public-school system, and comply with the same rules and laws as public schools.
The NEA teacher unions are demanding charters be held accountable to outcomes yet teacher unions are pushing back against any measure to  evaluate their members performance—talk about a double standard! For the record,  Connecticut parents of color agree that charter schools should be help accountable, just as traditional public schools should be held accountable. The bottom line is clear: These babies are our children so the educational vehicle needed to help shape their lives is our choice! Why? Because the history of America has shown us that the status quo will only educate certain children in certain zip codes!

The Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

The hypocrisy of the NEA is almost too much to take. It knows no bounds. Where was NEA’s statement  against hiding child abuse at the hands of school employees in traditional public schools? Don’t worry, I’ll wait for the response—I just won’t hold my breath! What makes the NEA so very hypocritical is that for the last several years they have been silent as their Connecticut affiliate, the Connecticut Education Association(CEA), has tried to pass several legislative bills that would protect school employees with a  pattern of alleged child abuse. The NEA and CEA was silent in  2010 when the  Connecticut Attorney General raised the alarm about child abuse and again in 2017 when the nonpartisan  Office of the Child Advocate issued a similar report regarding school employees not reporting abuse and neglect at the hands of other school employees—even though they are  mandated to report by law! Neighboring Rhode Island just had two cases in recent months where mandatory reporters failed to comply with the law. Despite status-quo stereotypes about parents (especially of color and low-income), parents have the right to choose the best educational opportunity for their children—especially when schools in America have a documented history of not treating all children equitably and just. We as parents should not blindly trust anything the status quo says, until we research it for ourselves, especially after we’ve seen them stay silent and turn their backs on children that are abused, neglected, bullied and discriminated against when they go to school. So Lily Eskelsen Garcia and the NEA, and for this matter, you too, Randi Weingarten and the AFT, it’s time for you to clean your own house and make better choices about protecting and educating the children you get paid to serve, before you judge parents’ choices about how they want to educate their children. Keywords:  their children. Please stop focusing on school models and start focusing on fiscal and personnel responsibility and what’s happening to  all children during the school day. In addition, stop intimidating the teachers and administrators that want to work directly with parents and community to ensure equity in education! And for the record, Lily and Randi, education is not about you anyway. It is about the students and effective teachers in every classroom working together to ensure both are successful. Parents and community are here, as a check and balance, to ensure safety, academic and life success happens for our babies! Please note: Parents are changing the rules of the game in education to ensure the safety, education and overall well-being of our children—and all children. And as the song says  “if you don’t know, now you know.”
An original version of this post appeared on Real Talk Gwen Samuel.
Gwen Samuel is the founder and president of the Connecticut Parents Union. She is an advocate for the educational rights of all children to ensure that race, zip code and socio-economic status are not predictors of student success. A parent of two children in Connecticut Public Schools, she also is the founder of two volunteer organizations in ...

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