Apr 15, 2011

Lighting My Own Torch

I watched the Oprah Winfrey episode with Michelle Rhee back in December of 2010. As I sat on my couch avoiding a looming homework assignment, I felt inspired more than ever to be a part of this movement. So, I went to the website and I joined Student'sFirst. I was definitely going to be a part of the first million to sign up.
Now what? I am the Chief Executive Officer of WFH Inc. (Wills Family Household) and while the title decorates my name quite nicely, the pay... Well let's just say I do it for the love. I can't donate thousands of dollars and when exactly was I planning on advocating for yet another cause? Somewhere in between tomorrow’s dental appointment, next week’s homework assignment and the weekly chore of cleaning the house. Let's not forget the church events and the play date scheduled for this weekend. It seemed impossible. That was until last week.
I received the email that Michelle Rhee would be attending a forum at Spelman College and the topic being discussed was: "Is Education The Shared Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?" This was perfect. My "friend in my head" would be in my city. Michelle Rhee would be on a panel discussing topics near and dear to my heart, education and children. I had to be there. But how? I have class on Thursday nights and we were scheduled to have an in-depth lecture on developing Individualized Education Plans (IEP). I'm seeking a degree in Early Childhood/Special Education for g oodness sakes. I can't miss this class of all classes. I need to know this stuff. After days of debating it over in my head, I took the matter to my professor. To my surprise, she was really supportive. So, it was settled. I would be at the forum.
When I got there, I said and watched the clip of the movie "Waiting for Superman" as if I'd never seen those scenes before. That feeling is back. This time it's more than inspiration. How can I describe it? I'm moved. I'm excited. I'm anxious. I'm overwhelmed. I like this feeling.
Three speakers opened our minds and filled us with knowledge about today's education crisis. Civil rights activist Lonnie King urged the viewers to go out to the small and large towns of rural Georgia and knock on doors. He believes that those folks want to see a change. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia told the audience that they could get involved by using their own sphere of influence. The last speaker was Michelle Rhee. She said if we are going to make education the civil rights issue of our time it's okay to show a little more outrage.
Panels are great for informing people and getting the conversation started. What happens though, when we leave the forum? Are we really taking away something valuable that will spark a fire within us, or are we more concerned with the pictures we have in our cameras to commemorate the event?
So, as I sit here reminiscing on words of wisdom from last night, I still have that feeling. Moderator Charles Black offered a moving anecdote during the discussion. He says that oftentimes when asked, "Why don‚t you old folks past the torch?" His response is, "Light your own damn torch." As parents, teachers and activists, we should heed his advice. We should feel outrage. We should do whatever is necessary to make education the great equalizer.

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