National Motto in the Classroom Act was passed in Tennessee last week. Basically, all schools in the state will now have to prominently put “In God We Trust” somewhere in the building. The bill’s sponsor, State Rep.
Susan Lynn, seems to think this loud display of religiosity will help “children understand the foundation of our government.” I saw this and couldn’t believe it. I mean, are y’all really at the statehouse spending time on this when your state ranks
43rd in terms of educational attainment? Are you for real, Susan? My friend Vesia can’t believe it either. https://twitter.com/vesiawils/status/1018138961523376128 And oh yeah, what about separation of church and state? What about parents who would prefer that a religious agenda not be forced on their kids? Most importantly, what are you doing to address the fact that
not even 1 in 5 kids of color in your state reads at grade level? How can kids even know what that motto on the wall says if they
can’t read it?? But let’s look at the bigger picture here. It’s not just Tennessee lawmakers deflecting from the real issues. We’re out here fighting for
access to literacy,
disabled students’ rights while our policymakers around the country are wasting time advocating for
homophobic sex-ed and
religious displays in schools.
Hope: More Jahanas
Maybe we need different people representing us altogether. I’m from
Englewood. A neighborhood in Chicago that’s best known for its violence, poverty and poor performing schools. So as an
educated Black woman with a great career, people sometimes give me that look that says, “Damn, you’re from Englewood?” like I’m some kind of unicorn. So I could definitely relate when
Jahana Hayes—a National Teacher of the Year—said, “People from my neighborhood aren’t supposed to run for Congress.” They think that our neighborhoods define us. https://twitter.com/JahanaHayesCT/status/1017394884431491072 But what resonated more is when she said, “If Congress starts to look like us, no one can stop us.”
This is the attitude and the action that’s going to change the trajectory of education for underserved communities of color. People like Jahana and
Stacey Abrams. People like
others who have “made it out” but are working and committed to improving the quality of education for students and families. Because to even begin to chip away at the issues impacting
education in low-income communities, policymakers and educators have to
understand the landscape and struggles. And it would be helpful if more educators were
from the communities they serve. But more than anything, there has to be interest, compassion and investment. Now this is by no means an endorsement for Jahana for Congress. But it is a strong endorsement for not letting our neighborhoods nor our pasts dictate our future. And I won’t lie, I like seeing
all these classroom educators throwing their hat in the ring. Throw a few more of these teachers into the debate on the House floor and maybe our legislators will
waste a little less time and start fixing some of the real problems in public education.
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 ...