Self: The POWER of Education, Our Voices

When my parents separated, I was eight years old and with the end of their marriage came a new neighborhood and school. I really liked the students at my school; the teacher and I, however, did not hit it off. She generally looked scared of us, she always looked like she just rolled out of bed, and she didn’t seem prepared for what she was teaching. Naturally, the behavior in the class quickly deteriorated and one day, I shared that until she started teaching, I’d be reading my book in the corner (I know, I know).

She didn’t say anything in that moment but later demoted my reading group. I had been in the advanced group where we read chapter books. Now, I was told to go and join a new group. I was surprised, and hadn’t noticed before, that most of the kids in this group were Black and Latino. The advanced group was all White and Asian and…me.

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Now: The Open Moment

I’d like to make the (not so radical) argument that we’ve reached a serious, deep inflection point leading towards openness, from global to local systems. From the World Trade Organization to the local library, the systems that form our society’s foundation were built for another time and place —not the moment of “transparency, authenticity, access” that Dell describes. And while it may feel that the wall builders and closed system cheerleaders are winning; I’d argue there is another truth. That more and more people are thinking in a global construct of openness. That we are implementing more and more open policies that push us toward a freer exchange of ideas and power. But as the world moves toward openess, supporters of the closed system status will push back harder than ever. To break through this resistance, we must push even farther, opening elements across all of our system. And I believe the most important place to do this work in is education, right now.

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Us: The Once and Future Openers

I’ve always found it ironic that those of us in the family and community engagement space are often lonely people. Not by choice (because usually we’re extroverts) but because of the way systems usually think about family and community engagement.  

You see, within our districts, schools, and organizations, we are usually the only ones charged with the responsibility of working with families and parents. School systems typically have a handful of folks charged with this responsibility. Very rarely do they have budgets, and even more rarely do they have missions and purposes focused on the broader opening work.

How wild is it then, that the very people often charged with “building community” or working with “the people” find themselves alone in the system, fighting major battles against decades of system dispositions? Changing a system to think about openness is no small matter and it’s really the responsibility of everyone—not just one person.  

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Self: Why I (Have to) Believe in The Open System

This story begins in 1920s Mexico. My grandmother’s parents were living in Zacatecas right after the Mexican Revolution. My great-grandfather found himself embroiled in a tumultuous situation when he was accused of stealing. A noose was put around his neck and he was ready to die.  At the very last minute, a local man ran up and told everyone that my great-grandfather wasn’t the thief; the crime was committed by a recently-apprehended criminal.  

After that, my great-grandfather decided to flee Mexico and move his family to Colorado.

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