10 January 2013

Who will bring the fight for children to the here and now?

Perhaps I was born to be a revolutionary. Perhaps.

At least I know I was born to be uncomfortable with the world as it is, and that is where revolutions begin - discomfort, dissatisfaction, perhaps distrust.

It is just past Christmas and the Solstice, Hanukkah and the New Year. It is that moment when we are at the darkest hour that the days begin to lengthen and hope begins to spring forth again. This is why, though Jesus was pretty assuredly born in July, and Hanukkah commemorates religious lunatics who would make the Taliban look reasonable, and the New Year might find itself at any point of our orbital ellipse, we bring our candles to this northern hemisphere moment of darkness and celebrate re-birth and re-commitment.

And so, in January 2013 I look at the world many of us live in, that world of public education. Those places where we say to every child, "come on in, we'll do our best for you." And as I look I wonder what it is that we must do next.

Revolutions are dangerous things. They can surely run way off the rails... see the French Reign of Terror, or the Soviet Union under Stalin, or even, in some ways, Cuba. But revolutions remain necessary, in those just mentioned cases, France's Ancien Régime, the Russian Empire, or the Cuba of dictator Batista that many (including the parents of Florida Senator Marco Rubio) fled, were all nightmarish places of hunger and poverty and vicious assaults on the most basic human rights. It's not like following the status quo in any of those places would have represented a more acceptable outcome.
Even Velvet Revolutions have
their cost. Prague Spring, 1968

So revolutions are dangerous, but revolutions are essential. "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion," Thomas Jefferson said. (later noting, "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.")

And revolutions can be "velvet," they need not be violent and highly destructive... though destruction of accepted practice is what separates a true revolution from a rebellion/civil war like the "American Revolution." (The American Revolution simply separated 13 British North American colonies from the nation of Great Britain, in almost every case, government forms, practices (such as voting), economic life, and citizen rights carried over intact.) Velvet or not, revolutions have very high costs, and require participants to take very high risks, which is why they are rare things.

Do we need an educational revolution? I surely believe so, whether it is led by a heroic leader in place like Alexander Dubcek or by a charismatic outsider like Nelson Mandela or Mohandas Ghandi. We can do without the Lenin-types I'd imagine, but I am not sure that another 20 years of children can afford to live with the system we've inherited from Henry Barnard, the Carnegie Corporation, and Benjamin Disraeli, any more than another generation of Chinese could have survived under the abusive chaos and poverty of Chang Kai-shek's Republic of China in 1949.

We need child-centered schools which allow children real choices so that they can learn to make choices. We need schools which embrace holistic, human assessment of where children are and where they need to go. We need schools which allow children and adolescents to be children and adolescents, and universities which embrace exploration and not regurgitation. We need schools which celebrate challenge instead of conformity. We need schools devoted to every child's needs rather than being devoted to systems and adult needs.

And to get there we must take risks, we must challenge what we can, we must subvert when necessary. More than anything, we need passionate commitment to change.

Passionate commitment to jumping off of our comfort zones, whatever those comfort zones are, and however far that jump can carry you as a differing human. Your jump may not be like mine. Mine may not be like someone else's. We jump differently at 23 than we do at 35 than we do at 50 than we do at 70, but we can all still intellectually leap. And so we must.

Passion commitment also means accepting risk, and challenge, and doubt. That is, after all, what we ask of our students every day, and that must be what we ask of ourselves.

So, wherever you are now, this new year is a great moment to leap. And with that in mind, I leave you with the music of revolutionary passion...

- Ira Socol


Enjolras
Do you hear the people sing?  
Singing a song of angry men?  
It is the music of a people  
Who will not be slaves again!  
When the beating of your heart 
Echoes the beating of the drums  
There is a life about to start  
When tomorrow comes!
Combeferre  

Will you join in our crusade?  
Who will be strong and stand with me? 
Somewhere beyond the barricade  
Is there a world you long to see?
Courfeyrac  

Then join in the fight  
That will give you the right to be free!!
All  

Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people 
Who will not be slaves again!  
When the beating of your heart 
Echoes the beating of the drums  
There is a life about to start  
When tomorrow comes! 
Feuilly  
Will you give all you can give  
So that our banner may advance 
Some will fall and some will live  
Will you stand up and take your chance?  
The blood of the martyrs  
Will water the meadows of France!
All  

Do you hear the people sing?  
Singing a song of angry men? 
It is the music of a people  
Who will not be slaves again! 
When the beating of your heart 
Echoes the beating of the drums  
There is a life about to start  
When tomorrow comes

 

I sat within the valley green, I sat me with my true love
My sad heart strove the two between, the old love and the new love
The old for her, the new that made me think on Ireland dearly
While soft the wind blew down the glen and shook the golden barley

'Twas hard the woeful words to frame to break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame of foreign chains around us
And so I said, "The mountain glen I'll seek at morning early
And join the bold united men, while soft winds shake the barley"

While sad I kissed away her tears, my fond arms round her flinging
The foeman's shot burst on our ears from out the wildwood ringing
A bullet pierced my true love's side in life's young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died while soft winds shook the barley

But blood for blood without remorse I've taken at Oulart Hollow
And laid my true love's clay cold corpse where I full soon may follow
As round her grave I wander drear, noon, night and morning early
With breaking heart when e'er I hear the wind that shakes the barley




Stand up, damned of the Earth
Stand up, prisoners of starvation
Reason thunders in its volcano
This is the eruption of the end.
Of the past let us make a clean slate
Enslaved masses, stand up, stand up.
The world is about to change its foundation
We are nothing, let us be all.
This is the final struggle,

Let us group together, and tomorrow 
The Internationale
Will be the human race.


My name is John Riley
Ill have your ear only a while
I left my dear home in Ireland
It was death, starvation or exile
And when I got to America
It was my duty to go
Enter the Army and slog across Texas
To join in the war against Mexico
It was there in the pueblos and hillsides
That I saw the mistake I had made
Part of a conquering army
With the morals of a bayonet blade
So in the midst of these poor, dying Catholics
Screaming children, the burning stench of it all
Myself and two hundred Irishmen
Decided to rise to the call
(Chorus)
From Dublin City to San Diego
We witnessed freedom denied
So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion
And we fought on the Mexican side
We marched neath the green flag of Saint Patrick
Emblazoned with Erin Go Bragh
Bright with the harp and the shamrock
And Libertad pala Republica
Just fifty years after Wolftone
Five thousand miles away
The Yanks called us a Legion of Strangers
And they can talk as they may
(Chorus)
From Dublin City to San Diego
We witnessed freedom denied
So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion
And we fought on the Mexican side
We fought them in Matamoros
While their volunteers were raping the nuns
In Monterey and Cerro Gordo
We fought on as Irelands sons
We were the red-headed fighters for freedom
Amidst these brown-skinned women and men
Side by side we fought against tyranny
And I daresay wed do it again
(Chorus)
From Dublin City to San Diego
We witnessed freedom denied
So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion
And we fought on the Mexican side
We fought them in five major battles
Churobusco was the last
Overwhelmed by the cannons from Boston
We fell after each mortar blast
Most of us died on that hillside
In the service of the Mexican state
So far from our occupied homeland
We were heroes and victims of fate

1 comment:

Rebecca Lathem said...

This post was a very inspiring read! I agree that it's time for a revolution in the educational system of the U.S. It should have been evident years ago that change was needed, since a lot of children dislike school and feel that school is a prison. Plus, schools today are placing so much emphasis on making students choose their career paths at such a young age! Schools need to embrace the flames of creativity instead of fighting to extinguish it. I hope, as a future educator, I will help to revolutionize our current educational system and make change happen.

Again, I'd like to inform you that I'll be posting a summary of your recent two blog posts, as well as a summary of my comments, to my own blog, which you can find here. The post will be titled "C4T #1".

Best regards,
Rebecca Lathem