After arriving in Washington for last weekend’s Save Our Schools rally, we went to the National Mall and the Smithsonian Museum. The museum was hat intrigued me the most, particularly the Civil Rights exhibit.
There was a direct reenactment of the sit-ins at Greensboro and photographs of the famous march on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All of these images caused me to think about the American peoples’ history of civil disobedience and the reasons behind it.
At first, it was to win freedom from an oppressive country. Later, women were disobedient so that they could finally gain suffrage, and African Americans were disobedient so that they could gain political equality.
In more recent years, we have been disobedient in order to show disapproval of wars, political philosophies, and bad economic policies. But what has been the common theme? It is the hope that through our demonstrations and protests, some good will come from it and that the future will be better
than the present. Of course, not all of these instances carry the same weight, but the goal behind them is a better life.
I strongly believe that this idea, the idea of a better future, the idea of hope is something that Americans will carry with them for generations to come. That is why we, the Save Our Schools participants, came to Washington. We want more for our children, our grandchildren, and all future Americans,
and we want everyone to know it.
While we waited for the rally to start, we decided to go to the Holocaust Museum. It was a truly moving and emotional sight as we passed by thousands of shoes that were taken from Jews before they went to the camps.
After a few tears shed there, we proceeded on to the Ellipse, where over a dozen different activists, artists, and everyday teachers spoke about what it meant to be in Washington. Matt Damon even made a guest appearance, minus a lot of hair on his head.
There were sentiments that teachers were under appreciated and underpaid and that corporate America had no business being involved in education. One speaker called for merit pay of legislators based on their performance in Congress, which received many laughs and cheers from the audience.
Signs peppered the crowd and read “Arnie DunCAN’T” and “Our Kids Are Not Test Scores.” There were even small children who were holding up signs protesting high stakes testing and “teaching to the test.”
After the rally, we all began to march around the Ellipse, all the way past the White House, in case Obama and anyone else in there was looking outside.
What amazed me about this rally and march was the sense of community shared by all of these educators and supporters of education. There were delegations from almost every state in the union and no matter who you saw, they were willing to share a conversation, an encouragement, or simply
just a smile with you.
Wisconsin had the largest delegation by far and everyone looked to them as a rallying point, as an example of how poorly teachers can be treated and the lack of respect many of them receive. These professionals are not in it for the glory, the money, the fame. They simply want the best for future
generations and because of that, they deserve the utmost respect.
Yes, there were specific demands made at this rally, such as funding public schools and not charter schools and allowing educators to educate children as opposed to teaching for high test scores. But I also think that this was about respect, to show that this group of people would not stand idly
by as people who have never been involved in education try to dictate to them the best way to foster success in schools.
Another fascinating point was that this was almost completely non-partisan. Yes, teachers are typically known as liberals or leaning more to the left. But the people there today were just as upset with Democrats as they were with Republicans. They don’t care who proposes what law or which party supports what testing system. They only want change to come around and it doesn’t matter to them which side it comes from.
Maybe Congress and the White House should go back to school and learn how to cooperate with each other again from their kindergarten grade teachers in this time of national crisis, and then maybe they should learn to appreciate those teachers and listen to them also.
Brianna Hill attended PLD High School in Lexington and is currently studying Spanish Education at Transylvania University.