How many times have I told a struggling student that they need an education because it is going to make a positive impact on their standard of living later in life? And while this might be true, to an extent, does the question say more about the economic narrative that undergirds public education and society or about my leverage as an educator to place value on what we teach? It would be foolish to ignore that I teach to pay the bills. But I naively hope to be like my teacher heroes that inspired me to value learning and the ability to ask questions. And they were probably caught in this same conundrum.
So, why are we here? Recognizing the political nature of schooling, the racial and economic disparities perpetuated on school campuses, and the American Dream wrapped in sheets of standardized curricula and exams, I have to admit that being inside the system results in moments of being confounded. Working with 12th graders has shown me that they possess a deeper awareness than some of their teachers expect. They have developed a resiliency to overcome the limitations places on their thinking and many are negatively impacted to the point where they stop believing in themselves. They get by to get out. And I hear many teachers say that the world inside the classroom is nothing like the "real world." So, why are we here? In the same way institutional injustice rears its head in the "real world" so too does it manifest itself in school hallways and classrooms. T.S. Eliot asked, "Do I dare disturb the universe?" And however cliche it is to hang on every word on Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, when the company sings "the world turned upside down" I feel something inside stir.
I am here because I feel the value of learning in asking questions, in rethinking knowledges, and in exploring possibilities. I am here to find out what it means to be human, ethical, inclusive, reflective, active, and as Freire said, unfinished. I am here to tear away at the foundations of injustice and inequality by leaving today better than yesterday. I am here to figure out what this looks like when we uncover the intertwining of theory and practice that seek to upset the status quo.
The next 32 days are going to be interesting, to say the least.