I would lie if I didn't say I post, discuss or have concerns about politics, both privately and publicly. As a teacher, especially of history, it is against codes of professionalism to bring my own leanings into the classroom, but as a purveyor of fact and critical analysis, this year has been difficult when discussing this election cycle.
But for a change, this post is not about teaching. It is a post motivated by a great speaker and researcher on the history of the world and of our politics, Dan Carlin, and his recent Common Sense episode "Or Else". If you don't listen to him, I highly recommended his measured, thoughtful ideas, and his definition of a radical.
As part of a larger statement about community, Rabbi Hillel the Elder once stated, "If not now, when?" That is what I felt during the Democratic primary, when I was often told by my Democratic friends that now was not the time for Sanders. That he would be divisive. That the United States in general was not ready for his "radical socialism." That change takes time.
Change takes time.
As I sit here, on my sick day, still thinking about education, checking on my emails to see if students emailed me about their work, still thinking about politics, this phrase has echoed in my mind.
Change takes time.
Does it? Define the time that change takes. Since I was born, we've gone from going to the library to check encyclopedias to talking to our phone and getting answers. Becoming media famous no longer requires the media, in fact, most of the time, the media is the one who catches up to those with fame.
Do they mean social and political change in this context? That I should allow the suffering of children because the change that can affect their lives will take time? That I should write off the injustices and the fear and pain that I see others suffer because change takes time?
How much time?
Africans and then black Americans protested their injustice for years, decades, centuries. Some white folks attempted to help, some placated them with "when you learn our ways" and others still oppressed them further through inaction or action. To this day, many are not free, literal victims of a war on "drugs".
Chinese Americans, some with ties back to the 1840s, are still viewed as foreigners, despite every investment. Despite wars fought for this country. More than a century here and still foreign.
Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, Latinx/o/a, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian, all foreign still. Still "illegal" even if their families have been in the California and Texas regions for centuries.
Decades of rural or urban poor white families subsistence living, dying for this country like all the others in their wars, working their asses off while simultaneously being called free-loaders and welfare families.
All the Native American/Indian nations that didn't have much of a choice. Who just want respect and land autonomy and some form of caring for what was done to them. The lies told to them. Clearly still waiting.
So again, the question. How much time? If not now, when?
You can feel free to shame those who look outside the system, who vote 3rd party, who refuse to vote, who get arrested protesting, who get shot, who question those who've been in the system for years, out there, exposed.
Only 60% of the United States votes, of those eligible. It excludes our non-violent felons, even should they reform. It excludes those who can't get the time off work, or who don't have transportation, or an address, or in some states, don't have proper IDs.
At what time, as proud US citizens, do we stand up and say, hey, this is ridiculous. THIS is not right, and it is not impossible to fix. We might not agree on all of the solutions, but we can agree on some solutions. We might not be able to save every industry, but we can make sure everyone stays employed. We might not be able to save everyone from hardship, but we can make sure we're not creating additional hardships for them.
In my podcast, I've talked about changes in education. Ideas, beliefs, practices that could be adjusted, kept or done away with. But here is the harsh truth: We are getting to a point where as a country and as an education system, we will be forced to change. You want to know what the biggest concern principals are supposed to have when they walk through a classroom? Student engagement, as a measure of learning. Engagement. Because teachers need to engage the students in the learning. But it doesn't address the real issue. What if what we are asking students to learn is crap? And they know it? What if our emphasis on non-urgent content, when so much real shit is going on around them, shows them that our system is broken? What if they can find hundreds of videos online outlining and explaining that same idea? How do you engage a student then?
So again. If not now, when? Our we as a country going to lead the change or be led by the change? Because right now, it seems to have us by our ear, and it's starting to pick up speed.