Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Changing the Narrative: What’s Missing from National School Choice Week

 
National School Choice began in 2011 with 150 events and concluded this week with 16,745 events to spread the word about school choice options.  According to the website, National School Choice Week is about giving parents the opportunity to select from an array of K-12 options that include, “traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.” Implied is the assumption that parents want and need a choice because the traditional system of children attending neighborhood schools is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of parents. Given that some school districts are under-resourced due to the unequal property tax system that funds public education, there are many challenges facing neighborhood schools. But instead of improving these schools, the current solution is to give parents a choice to go to another type of school. And when they go they take the funding allocated per child with them and bring it to the school of their choice. 
Proponents of school choice have always believed that competition and a free market is what is needed to fix America’s public schools. When parents and children become consumers of public education they can force schools to offer the best educational environments or risk losing customers and eventually closing.  Parental choice will drive the market and improve the offerings.  Well that sounds good in theory, but only if all choices are on the table. If the only choices parents and students have are the ones that make the most profit for shareholders how can we say they are getting the best of the market? What if parents want to choose something that is not being offered? How will a market based system serve those needs? Well if National School Choice Week wants me to join in the celebration next year, below are five choices I would like to see added to the program.
  1. The choice to opt out of all standardized testing and non-teacher made assessments. Opting out is the best choice a parent can make when they do not want their child to be used as a pawn in the standardized testing industrial complex. Assessment is an essential factor for good teaching and learning, but standardized testing is only one type of assessment and has grown into an insidious monster that wreaks havoc in schools. If National School Choice Week really cares about what is best for parents, then they will add opting out as a choice to be recognized and celebrated.
  2.  The choice for every child to have access to equitably resourced and diverse sustainable community schools. This might sound like a traditional public school that is supposedly included in National School Choice Week, but its more. To have this type of school some school choice options would not be allowed to drain resources and funding from public schools as they do now.  The commitment to high quality public schools needed to ensure they are sustainable would interfere with the need for some charter management operations to expand their profit margin at any cost. Additionally, current choice schools that filter children out who have special needs, are English Language Leaners, or simply make the application process so tough so they can select the students they want, would present a challenge to ensuring that parents can choose diverse schools.
  3. The choice for a school culture that strives for racial and gender equity. Equity is not the same as equality but for many supporters of choice it is easy to conflate the two. True equity means understanding what a group needs and giving it to them even if it means another group does not have it because they do not need it. If we are to have real racial and gender equity, then we must acknowledge that certain groups have been disadvantaged because of their race or gender and we commit to giving them what they need to succeed without questioning whether it is fair to the dominant group.  Will National School Choice Week recognize this choice and commit to helping parents get it?
  4. The choice for restorative practices instead of punitive discipline (i.e., detention, suspension, and expulsion). Every year we learn that schools punish black and brown boys and girls at higher rate than their white peers and that this disturbing trends begins in pre-school. We also know that when schools implement restorative practices the need for punitive discipline plummets. So why shouldn’t parents get to choose educational environments that implement restorative justice?
  5. The choice for ethnic studies and culturally relevant curriculum. Do parents have the right to choose a curriculum that values their children’s culture and uses it as an asset in the classroom? I believe they do and I think a true celebration of school choice would recognize that many children do not get this opportunity. Instead they are taught from a cultural deficiency perspective that blames their families and communities for their educational challenges.  True choice includes a choice in what gets taught and how it is taught to ensure that each child can see themselves and their culture in the curriculum as a positive contribution to society.

These are just some of the choices I noticed were missing in National School Choice Week celebration.  If the true intent is to provide parents with opportunities in education, then that would include the opportunity for these choices and many more.  If as I suspect, it is just a ploy to push charters and online schools then I will not hold my breath waiting for my choices to be added to next years celebration. The current system of choice is not about parents choosing good schools its about schools choosing good students and ensures that many families lose. 



                                                                                        

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Opt Out Movement Continues to Grow

“As the opt out movement grows, we grow - sometimes in different directions and sometimes together - as we adjust to policy changes that impact our schools.” United Opt Out National. Growth is necessary to ensure we continue to refuse to accept the privatization of our schools and communities.  As a form of resistance, opt out threatens those who seek to push their toxic brand of reform on public education.  And as the tactics change and evolve, opt out is needed more than ever.  
            Opt out is a type of civil disobedience. It is a form of protest where parents, students, and teachers refuse to submit to the perverted use of high stakes standardized testing. We never wanted permission to opt out.  We never asked for an opt out clause. We promoted opt out as a tool for stopping the corporate assault on public education. Opt out was to be the first domino that sends the rest falling down. If a whole class opts out then there is no need for test prep and if a whole school opts out then there is no need to use valued added measures (VAM) to evaluate teachers.  And one by one the dominoes fall as we get closer to tearing down the school reform house of cards.
            Since ESSA was passed, we at United Opt Out National have encouraged parents, students, and teachers to refuse indoctrination through digital learning. As we became aware of how the reformers would use ESSA to push through their new scheme we restructured our goals to include:
Push for protections for quality pedagogy, the teaching profession, and public school funding that the newly legislated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) attempts to tear down via the push toward isolationist computer based digital instruction that facilitates indoctrination, free for all data mining, and compromised cognitive, physical, and social development; the alternative teacher certification programs that place unqualified people in classrooms, and the unregulated charter industry that strips public schools of resources, increases segregation, and allows for theft of public money.
 Instead of only opting out of high stakes standardized tests, we have promoted opting out of all digital learning and assessments. In fact, given the documented negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s healthy development, our revised opt out letters must call for no screen time or a very limited amount each day (see sample letter below).  We must make it clear that no matter what legislation is passed or what new gimmicks they create; we will not be tricked into thinking that corporations have our best interest at heart.
            You see, those who seek to privatize education are always promoting choice. They promote charters because it gives parents choice. They support competency based education and personalized learning because it is tailored to the needs of children and gives them choices.  Well we support choice too. And opt out is a choice. A choice to just say no. No to the privatization schemes. No to turning education into a business. No to replacing teachers with computers. No to non-educators controlling education. As parents, students, and teachers we get to choose what type of education system we want. And when we opt out our choice becomes crystal clear.
In fact, we at United Opt Out National are working to broaden the opt out movement by hosting a Civil Rights Summit in Houston, Texas October 14-16. Our goal is to work with Houston AFT and civil rights groups who have historically misunderstood the opt out movement, to determine if we can build common ground around the harmful effects high stakes standardized testing is having on black and brown communities. Broadening opt out to be more inclusive of the needs of communities of color is another way we keep opt out alive and well and counter the myth that opt out is for white soccer moms. Opt out is about reclaiming our people power to fight back against what we know is wrong.  Opt out is only as strong as the people who use it. And the more we continue to resist the stronger we become.
            

            

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Am I Radical Enough? Thoughts on Being a Black Education Activist Surrounded by White Liberals

      To my non activist friends this sounds like a silly question.  I am pretty sure, when they think of radical activist they think of me. At first it was because I used Facebook to proliferate my radical views but since returning to Washington, DC in 2011 I have attended and organized numerous marches and conferences taking my social media activism to the streets.  However, lately as I get deeper and deeper into the world of education activism I am often left wondering if I am radical enough to be a part of this movement. Or perhaps their definition of radical varies greatly from my definition of radical and that is why I feel like I am not fully welcome in this movement.  And by their version of radical I mean white liberals, because frankly they dominate the education activist movement that I am a part of. This is not surprising, given that white liberals often have the privilege including time and money to fully engage in the activist movement.  When they use that privilege for the common good, then we get one step closer to winning the war. However, when they use that privilege to dictate to others how they must think, act, and behave in this movement, then they become the oppressor no matter how good their intentions may be. 
            In July 2016 the Save Our Schools Coalition for Action organized the People’s March for Education and Social Justice and Activist Conference in Washington DC.  The Save Our Schools Coalition was originally made up of the following 8 organizations: Save Our Schools (SOS), The Badass Teachers Association (BATs), United Opt Out (UOO), Network for Public Education (NPE), the National Council of Urban Education Association (NCUEA), the BAT NEA Caucus, the Center for the Expansion of Learning and Thinking (CELT), and the Florida Opt Out Network. Members from these organizations, spent 10 months working to plan and organize the march, rally, and conference.  We had hopes of substantially growing the number of attendees from the 2011 SOS march and rally but realized that it would cost serious money and none of the coalition organizations could afford to pay for this event. So, as was done in 2011 we asked both of the national teachers union, AFT and NEA to endorse and financially support this event.  We also asked the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) for support.
            Money from AFT, NEA, and WTU was used to offset the costs of the event. In case you are not aware, hosting a march, rally, and conference cost money.  In addition to paying for a sound system and the use of space at Howard University, money was used to help members of Journey for Justice and other grass roots organizations travel to DC and take part in this event.  No one was paid to speak. Most people had to pay for their own registration although we did allow the first 100 children to register for free.  Bob George who served as the director of the event, hopes to be paid a modest fee if there is any money left over after we pay all of our expenses but that might be wishful thinking.  Anyway, that is where we got the money from and that is what is was used for. 
            Sounds harmless right? Well not according to some white liberals. Because according to them if you take money from the unions then you have been bought, co-opted, and neutralized.  It doesn’t matter what the money was for. It doesn’t matter how hard you worked to make sure the unions did not take control of the event.  No you see they wrote the playbook and in that play book under no circumstances can you have anything to do with the unions if you want to be a real education activist.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have serious issues with both national teachers union. I have been a vocal critic of their decision to align with corporate reformist agendas such as Teach Strong and I believe they should be using all of their power to protect the teaching profession by explicitly denouncing and fighting against fast-track teacher preparation programs such as Teach for America and Relay Graduate School that are wreaking havoc on the profession they are supposed to stand for.  If I had the opportunity to sit down with Randi Weingarten or Lily Eskelsen I would gladly share my views with them. But seeing as how I am not in a union I don’t expect them to come knocking on my door for advice any time soon. 
            As much as I object to decisions made by the national unions, I prepare teachers every day who will become union members.  And with the task of preparing them comes the responsibility to ensure that they support the teaching profession and that begins by becoming an active member of your union.  No the unions are not perfect but no organization is, and if you want to bring about change you need to get into the mess, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. It may be easier to complain about the unions from the sidelines and denounce anyone associated with them in anyway, but that is not how change works.  However, I digress because this really is not about unions, although it was definitely a catalyst for the personal attacks directed at me and others.   
            So the SOS Coalition for Action took union money, and that caused certain white liberals, who did not attend or help plan the event, to denounce the march and rally as a union zombie fest.  Forget the fact that Reverend Barber founder of the Moral Monday’s movement was a keynote speaker at the rally. Ignore the fact that Brother Jitu Brown, director of Journey for Justice, and Bishop John Selders gave keynotes at the activist conference.  None of that matters because union money helped to pay for the event.  In fact, according to some white liberals, the unions used the fact that the event was connected to black social justice leaders as a pretense to further their corporate agenda.  Never mind that neither Randy nor Lily were at the event and the only union influence came from the teachers who are members of their unions and did not object to their dues being used to fund the event.  None of that matters. The mighty white liberals of the movement have spoken so truth be damned. I mean come on of course white liberals who blog and teach in the ivory tower know best. How dare we ask them not to judge an event that they know nothing about? If they say that SOS, UOO, BATs, and NPE have been co-opted by the unions then we should all just nod our heads and agree because white liberals always know what is best for everyone else.
            Well that is not going to happen. Because I have seen this before and I am wise enough to know that this is how movements die.  When white liberals attempt to define movements, especially movements that have strong connections to the needs of black and brown communities, they strangle the movement to death.  Their inability to step back and realize that they do not have all the answers and do not have the right to dictate to others how to fight for their freedom leads to chaos.  It has happened before and it will happen again (think Occupy and white feminists). They fail to realize that while they have the privilege to refuse to compromise others are not afforded that same luxury.  Others are fighting for their lives, and the lives of their children, and the life of their profession. Many of these white liberals do not live in communities ravaged by school closings, no excuses charter schools, economic disinvestment, crime, and poverty. And if they do they often have the means to protect their own children from these harmful effects through private schools or even homeschooling.  I mean if we are being honest, the ability to even opt your child out of high stakes standardized testing is a privilege that many black and brown families do not have. 
            This does not mean I am against opting out. I remain a board member of United Opt Out and I will continue to encourage parents, especially black and brown parents, to opt their children out of high stakes testing. But that does not mean that I am not aware of the privilege inherent in such a move.  But United Opt Out is about more than just opting out of testing. It is about opting out of the entire corporate reform agenda.  Many white parents joined opt out because they hated Common Core and anything that came out of President Obama’s administration. But when we challenged them on charters, school closures, and racist disciplinary practices they wanted no part in that fight. They demanded that the group focus solely on testing and we demanded that they leave the group because we clearly were not the right fit. 
            One of the reasons I pushed to have UOO be a part of the SOS Coalition for Action is because I wanted our voice to be prominent. I know that unions can exert power and take control. But I also knew that we could be that voice demanding that we do not concede control to any one organization.  And we didn’t.  We took their money and we had a kick ass event.  Nonetheless not everyone at UOO were happy with the decision to be a part of the coalition but they were out voted by a majority of the board members.  Since then 5 members of the board have stepped down. Some left for personal reasons and others may have left because they did not like UOO being associated with the SOS Coalition for Action. Honestly, I do not know exactly why they left but I want to thank them for all they did to create and UOO and make it the organization it is today. And I wish them all the best in whatever they do next.  Ceresta Smith, one of the founding UOO members, Ruth Rodriguez, and I all decided to stay.  And we have added Gus Morales and Zackary Rodriguez to the board.  We are all currently planning a Civil Rights Summit in Houston in conjunction with the Houston Federation of Teachers. Our plan is to bring together civil rights leaders and education activists to dialogue and engage about the effects of privatization on public education.  Many civil rights groups are opposed to the opt out movement, however given that the NACCP has recently come out against for profit charters, we believe now is the time to bring civil rights group to the table and have a conversation about how we can fight for racially just schools that does not come wrapped in high stakes standardized testing. 
            As much as white liberals might want to denounce the civil rights groups for believing that standardized testing can close the racial achievement gap by holding teachers accountable, some of us non-white liberals know that is a recipe for disaster.  Sure we could join our white brethren and draw a line in the sand and refuse to dialogue out of fear of being seen as one who compromises.  Or we can roll up our sleeves and work with these organizations to determine (1) if we all share the same goal of having a racially just high quality public education system for all and (2) how can we work together given that the corporate education model is doing more harm than good. I don’t know. Maybe we are na├»ve to think this is even possible. I mean our white liberal overseers obviously don’t.  They see that the Houston Federation of teachers is involved and once again slam us for being co-opted by AFT.  I mean I guess Ceresta, Ruth, Gus, Zack and I are just not capable of fighting the good fight now that many of our white founding board members have stepped aside.  We must have gone over to the dark side, literally and figuratively. 
So here I find myself, questioning if I am radical enough to be a part of this movement.  People who I thought I knew and who I thought knew me, are quick to accept the word of a white man as the gospel and question my integrity and commitment to this fight.  Is that what it means to be a radical? To allow the voices of white liberals to dominate the movement? Well if that is what you mean by radical, then maybe I asked the wrong question.  Perhaps instead of asking if I am radical enough I need to ask whether I am willing to allow white liberals to define who I am and how I engage as an education activist. And that question is much easier to answer...HELL NO.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I Will Not Be That Black Person You Need Me To Be

We are in the midst of another cycle of oppression boiling over into the streets. In Baltimore, protests have erupted over the death of Freddie Gray who died a week after being arrested by police and suffering a broken spine. Protesters took to the streets over the weekend demanding answers to why another black man is dead after an altercation with police. On Monday evening after the funeral for Freddie Gray, the protests turned violent as some destroyed property, set fires, and attacked people on the streets. We are not new to this cycle of oppression. It happened in Ferguson after the death of the Michael Brown, and in the 60’s after the assassination of Dr. King, and all over the world when oppression turns to rage. Anyone who pays attention to history can describe what will happen before it unfolds. Black person killed. People protest. Some people turn to violence. The National Guard gets called in and all hell breaks loose. This is how the cycle of oppression plays out when those being oppressed take their anger to the streets. 
            Next we get the reaction from the rest of the world. Black leaders and the family of the victim make pleas for peace. Elected officials make demands for nonviolence but refuse to answer questions about Gray’s death and as Ta-Nehisi Coatsreminds us “when nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade therepercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself.” The media reacts as well. Not when the protesters are demonstrating peacefully because the WhiteHouse Correspondence dinner is too important to cover peaceful protests. But once the violence begins, the media is sure to get involved making sure the world sees the story they want them to see. And then the rest of America responds. Through social media people quickly begin to condemn the violence, which is not the solution, but instead of remembering why people are protesting in the first place, many people focus only on the violence. They quickly label those they watch through the constant media coverage destroying property as thugs, animals, and criminals. And they demand that their friends do the same. They want others to not only condemn the violence but publicly demean those engaging in the violence.
            Well on Monday night I did not give them what they wanted. In my first post, I said I would not pass judgment because I was not in Baltimore (I also refused to watch the non-stop media coverage that has them fired up) and although I don’t condone the violence I understand that outrage leads to violence. I shared an article from Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos who aptly reminds people that what is happening in Baltimore is directly related to the lack economic opportunity and the increasing poverty.  I also reminded people that the fires will burn out, the glass will be replaced, the cars will be fixed, the businesses will be remodeled, and the bruises will heal but Freddie Gray will never breathe again and that is the reason why most people are in the streets in Baltimore. Next, I chose to remind people that when white people riot, after they win or lose a game, rarely do the media call them thugs or label their actions as riots.  This hit a nerve with many of my white friends. They did not like me comparing the response to white riots with the response to what is happening in Baltimore.  They were hoping that, the cool, hip, educated, black woman they call a friend, would join them in their condemnation of the thugs, criminals, and animals. What these friends of mine are learning is that I am not that black person.
            There are many black people who will join them in their public denouncements of the people who use violence but I refuse to play that game. Even members in my own family are quick to zero in on those who engage in violence and blame them for making all black people look bad. I am not that black person. You can find videos of black people denouncing those who resorted to violence and blaming the black community for always giving white people a reason to treat us the way they do.  I am not that black person.
I was that black person but I refuse to be that black person anymore. Growing up in all white New Jersey, desperate to be accepted by my white friends, I embraced a colorblind pull yourself up by your bootstraps blame the victim mentality for many years. Then I learned that people who are blind to my color are blind to me, you can’t pull yourself up by bootstraps that were cut off at birth, and victim blaming is a tool of the oppressor. I learned that when the masses are driven to extinction through abject poverty and police brutality they will often turn to violence to survive. I learned that when you ignore the plight of the oppressed they will often turn to violence to get your attention. None of this means I condone violence. I have engaged in many protests and they have never been violent. I do not hate all police and I will be the first one to turn to police when a situation calls for it because I want to live in a safe world. But once I became aware of how systems of oppression work and how white supremacy functions to keep people of color at the bottom of the social hierarchy, I can never be that black person who focuses on the few people engaging in violence instead of the thousands demanding justice.
            What really gets me is why my white friends need me to be that black person. Why do they feel the need to call me out for not slamming the protesters as violent thugs? I suspect that they need me to help them ignore the struggle. You see if I join them in their chorus of “violence will not solve this” and “these people are only making it worse by acting this way”, then they can continue feeling comfortable ignoring the reality of how oppression works.  They need me to condone their ignorance because if a cool, hip, educated, black friend agrees with them then they are justified in their thinking. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but I am not that black person. I will not help you ignore the reality of a rising epidemic of black violence by police. I will not allow you to dismiss the reason why people have to take to streets after another black man or woman is killed by those who are sworn to protect them. I will not contribute to your denial that racism and poverty are the real acts of violence that we should all be angry about.
           You see if I was that black person, you should not be happy to have me as a friend. I would be doing you a huge disservice if I did not force you to confront things you do not want to see. So since I am your friend I need you to know that I am not that black person and you should thank me instead of being angry with my response. I will still be your friend even if you rush to condemn those engaging in violence, but I have to wonder if you will still be mine if I refuse to be that black person. I unfriended a few people who took their condemnation too far for my liking and I am sure I lost some friends because of my posts. You do not have to agree with me but if you are going to call yourself my friend, you need to know that I am not that black person you need me to be. And if you want our friendship to grow stronger you should ask yourself why you need me to be that black person. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I'M FREE

I have had many jobs in my life. One year I filed 11 W-2’s! Most of those jobs were in the restaurant industry. They usually ended with me quitting, on the spot or with notice. A few times I was fired.  Today I was fired via email. My first thought was is this really happening in an email but the more I gave it some thought the more I realized that this was probably the best way for this to happen to me!

Saying I can be emotional is an understatement, especially for those who really know me. One of my goals for 2014 was to actively try and manage my emotions better.  It would be nice to not have so many emotional breakdowns as I get older and supposedly more mature. But some situations make it difficult for me to contain how I feel. Obviously being drunk is one but also being confronted with negativity face to face, such as when one is fired. I would have been fired yesterday but I was busy preparing for my other job and did not feel like cleaning the snow off my car, so I got my shift covered.  So that left my boss no choice but to send me an email explaining that I was let go instead of sending me next week’s schedule.

I am not upset I was fired. I wanted New Year Eve to be my last day so I would not owe any taxes for 2014. But I also needed the money so I decided to try and tough it out through the summer. So in some ways I got what I wanted, my last day was NYE.

But what would have happened had I been fired yesterday as was the plan? For one I would have been pissed because I would have just paid $15 to park my car for no reason. Not wanting to waste that money and being embarrassed and angry for being fired I would have ended up having a drink. After a few drinks I would become very emotional and at some point I could see myself, drunk, going back to the restaurant and letting everyone know just how I feel! For all we know I could of spent the night in jail!


So maybe that email was a gift from the universe sent to help me with those goals. I wanted to no longer work there in 2014 and I got my wish. I wanted to not have so many emotional breakdowns and I avoided what could have been a disaster. Thanks universe…2014 is off to a great start! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Love Alcohol as Much as You Love Your Gun: But I am Pro-Alcohol Regulation…Can You Say the Same?

As the conversation continues about what we can do to prevent another tragedy like what happened in Newtown from happening again, we appear to be drowning in quicksand over sticky topics that have no right or wrong answers. Gun owners do not want to talk about guns, video games enthusiasts do not want to talk about violent video games, and mental health advocates do not want all mentally ill patients to be seen as unstable mass murders (because they are not). So we push the blame around and around until the next time Lindsey Lohan is arrested or another Kardashian gets pregnant and we have something else to obsess over. Well I’m not playing the blame game. There are many issues we have to deal with if we are going to try and prevent another horrific tragedy like this one from occurring. Guns are only one piece of the equation. As I argue with pro-gun friends on Facebook, I notice something about their argument…they like guns. Some of them love guns. They have been around guns their whole life. They enjoy shooting and they do not want anything to stop them from engaging in their second amendment right. Well you know what I love as much as you love your gun…alcohol. I do love it…wine, beer, whiskey, champagne…I love it all. I have been drinking it since I was 16. What’s not to love? It makes me feel good, it can ease the stress of a long day, and it can bring out the flavor in a nice meal. And the 21st amendment ensured that I am guaranteed my right to legally enjoy alcohol. But as much as I love alcohol I do not have a problem with laws that regulate it. I will never accept a complete ban on alcohol…we tried that and it did not work. So now we regulate it. Do these regulations make it harder for me to enjoy alcohol? Yes they do. But they also try and keep us safe. Alcohol regulations against people who do not abuse alcohol, is the price we pay for being able to consume alcohol. I know that some people can abuse alcohol. They can become addicted. They can use alcohol as an excuse to hurt or rape someone. They can drive when they had too much to drink and hurt someone else. So knowing all of this, means we have to regulate alcohol. We have to try and prevent incidences of drunk driving, we have to try and keep alcohol out of the hands of kids, and we have to help those with alcohol addiction get treatment. And so we limit the sale of alcohol on certain days and times, we limit who can legally buy alcohol and we punish those who are caught driving their cars when they have had too much to drink. Have we put an end to drunk driving or alcohol poisoning? No we have not. People still drive drunk or drink until they make themselves sick. Does that mean we should stop trying? Should we let anyone who wants alcohol have it since we cannot stop people from abusing it? No it does not. The same way we cannot ban alcohol because some people will abuse it we also cannot do nothing because we cannot stop all of the abuse. So we do something. We do whatever we can to make sure people use alcohol responsibly. So why can’t we do that with your gun? Why can’t we stop people from buying a gun at a gun show without a background check? Why can’t we stop people from buying guns on the internet without a background check? Why can’t we limit who can have access to magazines that hold 30 or more rounds? Why can we not try? If you love your gun as much as I love alcohol why can’t you see that it needs to be regulated? I do not want to take your guns away like I do not want anyone to take away my booze, but I know that alcohol can be dangerous so I am thankful that we have regulations and limitations that try and keep us safe while also allowing us to enjoy an adult beverage. I wish more gun owners felt the same way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Can't Accept This.

I can’t accept this. I can’t accept that this is the world we live in. I know bad things happen. And good people die every day, and children are abused and treated poorly. I know these things. I know the world can be a very dangerous place. But I can’t accept that we now live in a world where we can’t protect 20 kindergarteners*…12 girls and 8 boys…from being murdered. I can’t accept that 4 teachers, a principal, and a school psychologist died protecting children from a gunman. I can’t accept that a mother was murdered and then her son went on a killing spree attacking children. I can’t accept this. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to normalize this. I don’t want to move on, forget, and wait until the next time. There can’t be a next time. My heart is forever broken. I was 22 years old when the Columbine school shooting happened. I was turning 24 years old in 3 days when 9/11 happened. I am 35 years old now, and I never thought I would live to experience the day when 20 children and 7 adults were gunned down…kindergarten children. I taught kindergarten. It was one of the most rewarding years of my life. It was challenging and some days I struggled but deep down I loved being a teacher. I always said kindergarten was a rough year. They were too big to be held like small babies but yet they had not matured enough to be first graders. They were so special, sweet and innocent, helpful and determined. Even the ones who gave me daily headaches could warm my heart with a smile. They were my babies and for that one year I was fortunate to be a part of their lives. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time dealing with this tragedy. The fact that the victims were kindergartners* hits too close to home. How do we accept this? How do we move on? Why would we want to? How does life go back to being normal when the lives of 20 families have been shattered? And what do we do to ensure that this never happens again? BECAUSE IT CAN’T HAPPEN AGAIN! We can’t live in a world where this is the norm…where we lower the flags and go back to business as usual. Where we pay lip service to gun control and mental health support until the next tragedy occurs. We can’t let this happen again. I do not accept that this is the world we live in. I know we need to talk about gun control or what I prefer to call gun responsibility. Because it is about responsibility, not control. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to attack the NRA or demand that teachers go to school armed. I want to mourn for the victims and find a way to prevent this from ever happening again. Some say we can’t, that there is nothing we can do, but I can’t accept that. We can’t live in a world where kindergartners and their teachers are no longer safe. If we can put a man on the moon why can’t we protect our children? Don’t tell me we can’t do it. We can. We choose not to. And I can’t accept that any longer. It’s not easy talking about guns. Like abortion, it is an issue that divides us. Unlike abortion, it is not a private medical procedure that should be between a woman and her doctor. Guns affect all of us. We use guns to protect us and to harm others. And sometimes we are harmed and killed when people use guns against us. Our founding fathers wrote the right to bear arms as the second amendment to the Constitution. And although they could have never imagined what our world would be like now, they knew that fundamentally we have the right to protect ourselves from our government and fellow Americans who would want to harm us. But now things are different. And guns are big business. And it’s easier for some kids to get a gun than a job. And people who are mentally unstable can obtain guns quicker than they can receive treatment for their mental problems. And on Friday December 14, 2012, a gunman killed his mother, 20 kindergarten* children, four teachers, a principal, and a school psychologist. That is where we are today and something must be done. So if we are going to talk about guns I suggest we enforce two rules to frame the discussion: 1. We CANNOT ban all guns. 2. We HAVE TO do something to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again. I was once asked by a marine who was pro-gun if I would prefer a world where no one had guns or everyone had a gun and I of course said no one. In an ideal world we would not need guns and no one, not even police would have them. But I’m a realist and I know this is not a possibility. We can’t ban all guns, the same way we can’t deport 5 million undocumented workers. And when we try and have a meaningful conversation about gun responsibility we cannot begin with a fallacy. We cannot ever ban all guns. It is not possible. So if that is your only solution then you can’t join in this discussion. On the flip side, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. Anti-gun people might want to ban all guns, but pro-gun people want to do nothing. They don’t want to blame a gun for the deaths of those children and their teachers. They blame the shooter and we all should blame him. But he used a gun. He did not use a knife, like the guy in China, and none of his victims survived because he used a gun, not a knife. Guns kill people, when people use them to kill. They have no other purpose but to kill. It’s not OK to only blame the individual and ignore our culture that is obsessed with guns. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. If you think that now is not the time to do anything or that nothing can be cone then you can’t join in this discussion. These are my rules that should be implemented if we are going to have a meaningful conversation about guns. I hope we will have this discussion because now is the time. I hope we will listen to each other, and remember the victims from Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Columbine, and all the other victims of schools/mass shootings. We owe it to them to do something now. And in the end I pray that somehow things change. We find a way to love each other and protect our babies from all the evil in the world. We find a way to help each other and support each other when in need. I can’t take part in this meaningful conversation right now. My heart is broken and I am beyond wrecked with grief over this tragedy. All I can do is mourn and pray for God to comfort the families of the victims and to comfort all of us now as we grieve for those precious babies who were taken from us. But now is the time to talk and to do something. Because this can’t happen again...we can’t let it. Rest in Peace: Charlotte Bacon, 6 Daniel Barden, 7 Olivia Engel, 6 Josephine Gay, 7 Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6 Dylan Hockley, 6 Madeleine F. Hsu, 6 Catherine V. Hubbard, 6 Chase Kowalski, 7 Jesse Lewis, 6 James Mattioli, 6 Grace McDonnell, 7 Emilie Parker, 6 Jack Pinto, 6 Noah Pozner, 6 Caroline Previdi, 6 Jessica Rekos, 6 Aveille Richman, 6 Benjamin Wheeler, 6 Allison N Wyatt, 6 Rachel Davino, 29, Teacher Dawn Hochsprung, 47, School Principal Nancy Lanza, 52, Mother of gunman Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Teacher Lauren Rousseau, 30, Teacher Mary Sherlach, 56, School Psychologist Victoria Soto, 27, Teacher *Update: I have learned that all of the victims were first graders not kindergarten. It doesn't change anything. Any grade is to young, even high school.