This Isn't an Endorsement But Let's Just Say We Need More Teachers in Congress

Jul 20, 2018 12:00:00 AM


Outrage: Fewer Susans

The 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, [pullquote]are y’all really at the statehouse spending time on this when your state ranks 43rd in terms of educational attainment?[/pullquote] Are you for real, Susan? My friend Vesia can’t believe it either. 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 funding equity, access to literacy, LGBTQ and disabled students’ rights while our policymakers around the country are wasting time advocating for cursive, 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. 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 me and 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 [pullquote]it is a strong endorsement for not letting our neighborhoods nor our pasts dictate our future.[/pullquote] 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

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 advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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