“The Fight for Education is only Worth it When We also Fight for Social Justice”
By: Dr. Denisha Jones, BAT Board of Directors
This is the powerful and moving speech that Dr. Jones delivered at the People’s March for Education and Social Justice, copied from BadAss Teachers Association on Blogspot
As we have been preparing for this march and rally I have been asked countless times what the overall goal of this event is. Some have questioned the value of marching and rallying to achieve our goals. Personally I believe that there are many different reasons why we should march and rally. First we must come together and celebrate the progress we have made in the past five years. When hundreds of thousands of parents and students and teachers have opted out of high stakes testing across the country we need to celebrate. This does not mean we do not have much work to do but we should also take time to celebrate. Another reason we march and rally is to make our voices heard. We must remind society that education is not a privilege that only the rich can afford. We must demand that public education be preserved as a human right for all. When we march we elevate the voices of our students, their families and ourselves.
I have also been asked what makes this march/rally different than the one 5 years ago. And to that question I simply respond this time we have woken up to the reality that our fight to save public education is only worth it when we also fight for social justice. What good are high quality schools if black boys and girls are being herded into the prison industrial complex? What good are high test scores if our communities are ravaged by poverty and violence? What good is a child centered curriculum if families lack access to health care and jobs? We cannot fight for public education if we don’t fight for social justice.
Some of you might be wondering what it means to fight for social justice. Well it means acknowledging that this country has failed to serve all people well. We must acknowledge how institutional and structural racism, xenophobia, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism, and classism have worked to oppress our non white non male brothers and sisters around the globe. We must acknowledge that we cannot have equitable public schools when we have income inequality.
We are the 99% and we must work together to not just restore the middle class but to eradicate poverty or at the very minimum to lessen the effects poverty has on the ability of our children to learn and grow. We must acknowledge that no human being is illegal and we must support the struggles of our undocumented brothers and sisters to live free of fear of deportation. We must acknowledge that mass incarceration has replaced slavery and Jim Crow and is wreaking havoc in our black and brown communities.
We cannot have equitable schools when our students’ parents are locked up for nonviolent crimes. We must acknowledge that climate change is a very real challenge to our future and we must prepare our children to be leaders in the green revolution.
We must acknowledge that Black Lives Matter. We must fight against police brutality and state sanctioned murder. We must put an end to private prisons fueling the school to prison pipeline. We must remember that any of our black and brown students can be the next Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, or Michael Brown. We must put an end to preschool discipline that unfairly targets black and brown boys and girls. We must protect our LGBT students and teachers who continue to be oppressed and lack real protection against discrimination. We must work to end the pay gap that treats women like second class citizens. We must fight for a just world for all.
Some of you may ask why we should take up the issues. You may argue that if we do not focus on education we will lose the fight. Well let me be clear…we are losing. We are outnumbered by the big money reformers have. We lack the ability to buy politicians to support us. We are unable to get major media to take us seriously. But we have not lost. We continue to fight but if that fight is to be worth anything at all we must fight for social justice. Thank you!