WE ARE MANY. THERE IS POWER IN OUR NUMBERS. TOGETHER WE WILL SAVE OUR SCHOOLS.
And get this...they all hissed every time Arne Duncan's name was mentioned. Six hundred hissing people is quite impressive in an unnerving sort of way!!
Meet the kids from Newark
Have no fear, these kids can take care of themselves.
On Friday, Kristin, Jose, and Tanaisa made their way around Chicago. They had lunch in the Signature Room on top of the John Hancock Building, visited Loyola University, and spent the afternoon in Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. That night, Kristin and Tanaisa worked on their presentation for the next day then wrote Tanaisa's keynote address while Jose finished up his homework by writing an essay.
These are smart kids who attend some of the top ranking high schools in the country. One is pursuing an International Baccalaureate (IB) high school diplomas while another has already been accepted at a prominent university. But that's not why they were invited to the NPE Conference.
Making History in History Class
These kids have their own ideas on how to run their union. They are extremely well organized and democratic. They settle their differences of opinion by voting. Officers are elected to represent the membership and everyone is assigned a role from protester to care-bear. If you want to know what a care-bear does or more about organizing student unions, you should watch their panel discussion on the NPE website. Don't be fooled by their upbeat attitude, it is not easy to form a student union.
What these kids do want you to know is that they are still just kids. They have to go to school, take care of their little brothers or sisters, clean their rooms, do their homework, plan for college, and all the other things that teenagers do. In their spare time, they organize rallies, occupy the offices of their Superintendent of Schools, Cami Anderson, and field phone calls from journalists. They also support one another and inspire students from all over the country.
Solidarity with Other Students
In New Jersey, most every student opts out of standardized tests. The few students who do decide to be tested are taken to the library while classes continue as usual for everyone else. But students in other states are not so lucky. For those kids, all classes come to a screaming halt as the testing begins and students are given no choice in the matter. Tennessee, for example, requires students to be tested or face repercussions such as a punitive drop in their grades or accusations of truancy. For students in those states, wearing a protest symbol like the "break-free bracelet" is a big deal and for some, their only recourse against mandatory testing.
Why We Will Win...
"...the tragedy of old age, which is not that it is less vigorous than youth, but that it is not needed by youth; that its love and prosy sageness, so important a few years ago, so gladly offered now, are rejected with laughter."---Sinclair Lewis
While everyone else was packing up at the end of the NPE Conference to head home, the kids from Newark had their own ideas. Kristin, Jose, and Tanaisa took the opportunity to see the "real Chicago" with Asean Johnson and his mom, Shoneice Reynolds. They visited communities hit the hardest by school closures and talked with the kids who are on the front lines in the fight to save public education in Chicago. They shared deep dish pizza and encouragement to "keep fighting, keep marching." Reminding each other that "we have nothing to lose but our chains!"
In the spirit of this fearless compassion, Momma Bears has a bold warning for Arne Duncan: Our children are more than white, more than suburban, and more brilliant than your condescending mind will ever know. And they will do more than hiss at your name. They believe in action. And God help you, if they ever decide to occupy your office.