Betsy Devos was confirmed today as the new Secretary of Education for the United States.
This is concerning to many educators, as well as members of the general public. Millions had called their senators in hopes to convince them to vote in the interest of public school students nationwide. However, many chose to vote instead with their pocket…ahem…party.
Houston, we have a problem.
Public education has a big question mark looming overhead. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, much less the next four years. I know what yesterday brought, and that was an announcement from CoSN, linking to this Washington Post article that “the FCC is stopping companies from providing federally subsidized Internet” to low-income families. This is devastating news, and will no doubt exacerbate the already-wide digital divide that affects our students.
When there is a problem, we need to work to find a solution. I don’t have it…I’m sure nobody does. This is much bigger than any one individual, which is exactly why we need to come together. We need all hands on deck. We are at war to protect our future.
ISTE Teacher Standards 2017, Draft 2, challenges all educators to be advocates (See Standard 2: Leader, Indicator B). In light of several questionable decisions taken by elected government officials(?), we need to rise up and fight for our students. Many of us have been doing so all along, but again, we need all hands on deck.
So, what can we do? It is helpful to have a set of actionable steps. These are some initial thoughts, and I encourage any readers to add their suggestions in the comments:
- Each one, reach one. I always talk about how connecting with other educators via social media has helped me become a better teacher for my students. Over the years, I have found even more benefit as my use has grown to include collaborating for social change. We need more voices in the mix. Now, connecting is more than sharing best practice (which I’m not diminishing by any means…this is also important). Let me put it this way, an individual can make a big difference; however, that difference is amplified even further with collaborators. So I challenge everyone reading this to bring a colleague online, and get them involved.
- Organize. The power of grassroots movements is undeniable. The keyword in that last sentence is grassroots. People who start movements don’t wait for permission to organize to be handed to them. They take it. We all have so much more power than we know, individually and collectively. Don’t sit around waiting for a leader to take action on an issue you care about. That leader can very well be you. (Of course, there are precautionary measures to take. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there may be risk involved. Be smart. Only go as hard as you are willing/able. But there are ways to resist in most situations, and taking small action is better than taking no action.)
- Don’t be afraid to lead…and don’t be afraid to follow. There’s nothing worse than groups fighting for the same cause, but also fighting each other like crabs in a barrel. It’s a waste of energy at best, and also counterproductive. Instead, I would suggest looking first to see if there is already a group aligned with your vision, and throwing your support behind that. If there’s not a good fit, then go for what you know, but reach out to similar groups to see if you can work together.
- Keep your eyes open. Going back to social media…I use Twitter lists a lot. I have a special one called, “Watch These,” where I always go when I sign on, immediately after checking notifications and/or DMs. It has evolved through the years, first including my close friends. Then I added those who inspired me in education, then those outside of education. In addition to my all-time-favorite Twitter peeps, the current iteration has grown to include people who are there for not-so-positive reasons. I’ll let you guess who they are. Anyway, my reason for adding them to the list is because it helps me keep my eyes open. I see what these people are saying. It’s better to get it directly from the source than to hear it second- and third-hand, especially with all of this “fake news” and “alternative facts” going around.
- I also like to follow alt-gov accounts like @AltUSNatParkSer, @Alt_DeptofED, @RoguePOTUSStaff, @RogueNASA, and others. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of all of the alt-gov accounts, but at a bare minimum, they often share valuable information, such as when demonstrations are being held.
- Stay vocal. Social media is definitely a recurring theme in this post, as you can see. As much as you are able, share your views freely, share them often, and fight for what you believe in. Do not accept to be silenced by the opposition. Silence is death. Yes, that may sound overdramatic, but it is true. When you allow yourself to be silenced, you are allowing your idea/passion to die.
- Tangentially, we need to be amplifying and uplifting one another. Too many times, I have been guilty of letting my passion die because it was met with deafening silence. Now, I am learning to keep talking. Talk to anyone who will listen. Talk, even if no one is listening. Just keep talking.
- I was introduced to the term “protest fatigue” by an article a friend shared, but as Shaun King says, we must reject that. Protest fatigue is death. Resist, resist, resist. Not everyone can go to marches all the time, but there are many ways to resist. Do whatever you are able/willing. Every little bit helps. Speaking of that…
- Don’t forget the little things. Senators Collins and Murkowski voted NO today. I have tremendous respect for them, especially given that every other member of their party voted to approve the nominee. With a little bit of digging, it’s not hard to see how that could have *possibly* happened. I would like to note that, even though Senator Murkowski’s campaign allegedly received a donation, she still voted NO, which was pretty remarkable. This begs the question, why? It would have been so easy to just vote with her party. But she did exactly what we hope that all elected officials would do…listened to her constituents. “I have heard from thousands — truly thousands — of Alaskans who shared their concerns about Mrs. Devos as Secretary of Education. They’ve contacted me by phone, by e-mail, in person, and their concerns center, as mine do, on Mrs. Devos’s lack of experience with public education and the lack of knowledge that she portrayed in her confirmation hearing,” she stated February 1 at a Senate session.
- I have always been reluctant to call my legislators for two reasons: a) it was a bit scary, and b) I felt like it would be a waste of time. Concerning the first point, this particular issue lit me up so much that I forgot all about being shy. (By the way, my friend shared this link with me, which was a tremendous help.) Regarding the latter, Senators Collins and Murkowski’s actions today are living proof of what can happen when we don’t forget the little things. I’m a believer, and from now on, I will be calling my legislators and letting my voice be heard.
- Another friend of mine put me onto the Party of Lincoln app (iOS, Android) which has over 20 ways to take political action, and includes the phone numbers of U.S. politicians. I’ve also used Countable (iOS, Android), which allows you to contact Congress and learn about bills.
We have work to do, friends! Again, I welcome any constructive comments and ideas for ways that educators (and let’s be real, all human beings) can support one another. Thanks for reading!