Last month we had the honor of getting to present a workshop at the Progressive Education Network 2017 Conference in Boston and perform for the closing ceremony. This year's theme was "amplifying student voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world". It was a powerful gathering and really exemplified the type of student-centered, holistic education that all students deserve. Our wise friend Patrick once said, "the freedom of the teacher is the freedom of the student", and you can see the innovation, creativity, and responsiveness to student interests and needs that flourishes in classrooms where teachers truly have the freedom to make teaching an art.
Jonathan Kozol was the closing keynote speaker, and has long been a hero of ours. He has spent his life as a tireless champion of equal education for all, naming the "savage inequalities" of our education system and tracing the resegregation of American schools in the last 40 years after the initial gains following the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling in 1954. Kozol names the state by state dismantling of initiatives intended to integrate our schools in his book "The Shame of the Nation - The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America" and in his keynote he spelled out the ways the segregation of schooling has effectively created a two-tiered system in our country. In this two-tiered system a majority of students of color and low income students will learn rote memorization, military school-esque discipline, and spend a majority of their days in school preparing for tests that do very little to cultivate the skills they will need to function in a dynamic and changing world, but that none-the-less determine whether their school will remain open and whether or not their teachers will be replaced. Their wealthier, and often white, counterparts will spend their time in school building critical thinking skills, cultivating their creativity, exploring their interests, engaging in authentic projects that integrate a wide range of disciplines, and developing the social skills to advocate, collaborate and negotiate.
After the concert we had the deep honor of sharing our song "Addition" with Mr. Kozol, which was inspired by his book "Shame of the Nation". We felt so blessed to get to share it with him, and he seemed to enjoy it :)
We sing, "No child left behind, except the brown ones, and lots of poor ones, those schools don't have funds. They have no text books, but they'll be tested, and now the school's closed. There goes the neighborhood. Where do those kids go? Those scores are too low. And school's a joke so, those kids just don't go. They feel forgotten, so they start hustling' to earn a living. End up in prison. Break down the walls, y'all. Let's change the laws, y'all. Teachers and students, we've got to raise the call 'black white and every color, it was division, now it's addition brother (sister). We've got the numbers, it's time to add them up! It's always better when we're together."