Education Reform, the Return to School, and an Age Old Story

The last 22 years my professional life have been dedicated to a single premise, that

 Each of us, especially children, has a right to their own soul, their own psyche, their own life, and when that life is nurtured by those around them, they will grow up with the strength and empathy to be strong individuals and positive members of a healthy community.

The reason I measure from  22 years is that is approximately when Education Standardization invaded my environment and forced me to confront those who would demand the lives of children.  It was the year Virginia, where I taught, implemented the Standards of Learning and instituted constant assessment as the measure of a good education.   Education Reform was being implemented all across the country.

This year with the fight over the return to school in the middle of 100 year pandemic, we are seeing the horrifying logical culmination of that Education Standardization movement. 

The idea that children (young or old) exist to feed and hold up the economy is what is feeding the ghastly push from leaders for children return to school buildings lest they and our economy “fall behind.”  The demand that children return to school is the same argument made for competitiveness over the last 20 years.

When the hue and cry was going up in 1998 for standards and testing, rigor and competitiveness, it was posed as what was good for children, particularly children of color.  It would enable them and our country to compete on the global economic stage.  For twenty-two years the economic chauffeurs have wrapped themselves in that bright garish flag.

Today the deeper purpose of that push has been revealed.  It is not for children’s “own good” that they must be competitive. The real reason is they must carry the full burden of the national and global economy on their tiny shoulders in the eyes of the political and business power holders. They must give up everything for the family business.  Their own potential, their own dreams, their own destinies are immaterial to the demand that they uphold the markets with their lives.

It does not matter that they will be at risk of brain, heart, or kidney damage. It does not matter that they might lose their entire futures from being held in a badly ventilated room with novel germs for hours at a time.  It does not matter that they might become unwilling killers of their friends and family.

All that matters is that they put their lives on the line to provide a means to open the economy without requiring the government to spend more or the mega wealthy elite to spend any of the trillions they were given in this crisis. 

Don’t be fooled by the argument that it is what’s “best” for the children for them to be in school buildings.  Children with loving families and a chance to play will be fine. Children in dysfunctional or high needs families will need more support, but we should have been giving them that support before schools closed.  They were already in crisis and we need to attend now.

In a matter of days or weeks, in a large number of states, children will be forced to attend schools at the expense of their own futures.  That fact strips the Education Reform movement of all legitimacy, all defensibility, all justification.  The ruse is up, and there will be no redemption.

I suspect when Abraham’s son rose from the altar after the angel saved him from his father, he never forgot that lesson- He knew for the rest of his life that his father would sacrifice him on the unheard command of an unseen spirit. He was disposable in dedication to an invisible idea.  I have wondered how that knowledge of one son about his father has echoed down the halls of time and civilization.  For that willingness to kill was not for Isaac’s or Ishmael’s sake, but for Abraham’s own status with his own God.

 Will our children carry the burden of that knowledge about us?  Will there be any angels of mercy? And in whose name will that willingness to kill our own be?

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