Memorial To Labor Day — One Journey Ends Another Begins

Right before Memorial Day, someone dared me to compose a weekly blog for the summer.  I took the dare and did my best with help from my amazing assistant, Kelsey.  This is the last blog of summer.  I will now return to monthly blogging and begin video blogging – vlogging — Christopher Columbus High School’s last year ever , from PFSA’s perspective.  Please tune in and share the events with me.

I learned a lot this summer:

  • I still dislike sitting down to start a blog entry, but I get them written faster…yay?
  • Potential donors are out there and rejection hurts.  But it really hurts the kids enrolled in the very last graduating class of Christopher Columbus High School.
  • Despite the media’s (overall) disinterest in covering school closures (and other “NYC education non-stories”), the decade-old sound bite, “Education Is The Civil Rights Challenge/Issue Of Our Time,” in its current incarnation is not old.
  • The timing of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is sobering when juxtaposed with every task I undertook in my daily work this summer.

At 11a.m. last Tuesday, PFSA tuned in and tweeted with others during NPR’s Tell Me More, Michel Martin’s live radio broadcast and Twitter education forum with guest U.S Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  It was during the segment that I had my “Really?” moment.  Everyone, from Arne to all the guests, tweeters, etc. agreed Education IS INDEED The Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time (except PFSA).

Here’s the thing.  At this very moment Education is the Civil Rights Crisis of our time.  And the tired-sound-bite-that-everyone-loves, “…we’ve come a long way, and/but we have more work to do…”  <–  That One?   That doesn’t wash.  The work Mr. Duncan and other federal, state and city policy makers/elected officials have done and persist on doing has caused a crisis.  In fact, I kindly request everyone to stop doing the “still more work to be done…” work.  As NYC and state test scores will tell you, the education gap is the same if not wider for our black and brown youth, the very youth Dr. King was seeking to inspire and lift up 50 years ago.

Here’s the other thing.  Last week, many of our fellow tweeters/participants began tweeting the always reliable “…we need more parent involvement” mantra. What no one seems to understand (ever) is that the hardship and hard work necessary to live with and through a day of poverty for most single parents and guardians makes the very notion of attending PTA meetings laughable.

“…their parents are unlikely to be able to find work or housing and are often ineligible even for food stamps. For children, the era of mass incarceration has meant a tremendous amount of family separation, broken homes, poverty, and a far, far greater level of hopelessness as they see so many of their loved ones cycling in and out of prison…” — Henry A. Giroux

Food, shelter and employment are the priorities for many parents of students attending “failing”/closing schools.  Getting up and fighting poverty to provide these basic necessities is parent involvement.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I learned these many lessons against the back drop of the 50 th Anniversary of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

“With a new school year about to begin, are you hopeful?” Tell Me More’s Michel Martin asks.  Her guests affirm their hopes.

For me, as the first day of school approaches, I am both sobered and somber.

I hope for hope, but “rainbows, butterflies and unicorns” hope?  That’s like raising educational standards in a vacuum.  Oh, and one more thing I learned this summer: all that flowery hope is a dream.