My first time attending a National Association for Multicultural Education conference but it won’t be my last. As with the San Francisco Teachers for Social Justice conference and the Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice, there’s so much more to gain when the focus is on discussion about how to tackle issues of social justice and equity, not just on making corporations richer through insidious marketing.
Angela Davis was the keynote speaker Saturday. She spoke about the prison industrial complex and the school to prison pipeline. Angela reminded us that while we may not see change in our lifetime, that it may take several life times; we need to imagine new futures. We need to root out racism in our schools. The teacher’s role is to instill in our students the desire to shape the future. However schools are set up to discipline and punish and this is reflected in the racialization of schools and prisons. Testing is a form of discipline. She states that there is large-scale criminalization of black children, and other children of color. She also states that there is a punishment industry. There is an increase of police in schools and they see violence as the only way to treat some students. Schools have ‘school resource officers’ who are career law enforcers. SRO’s can overrule school admin re treatment of students. There are an increasing number of arrests in schools. Students are being punished harshly for things like answering back and other behaviors that are normal teenage behavior and that don’t cause any harm. All this does is suppress the student voice and remind them that they are not really in control. A new vision is needed. Education is not primarily for the individual but for the betterment of our communities. We need an education of the imagination. We need to demand an end to the school to prison pipeline. Angela Davis states that we cohabit this world with the ghosts of our histories. We have to reclaim education from profiling and law enforcement. There are no quick fixes but now is the time to forge new futures for our children, their children, their children’s children and down the line.