I’ve just returned from the National Education Association Annual Meeting in the nation’s capital.
While there I did my best to juggle tasks: providing staff support for the 80 delegates from Northeastern Ohio, assisting the Ohio delegation as caucus parliamentarian, coordinating worship services for delegates from across the country and leading the music for the delegate Mass, and keeping up with my campaign from hundreds of miles away.
In many ways, the issues considered by NEA delegates mirror those faced by Ohio’s schools and the State Board of Education. I imagine that when our AFT brothers and sisters meet in Minneapolis in a couple of weeks, they will deal with many of the same challenges: reforming the inappropriate use of standarized tests, reigning in an out-of-control charter school industry, and providing appropriate financing for public schools.
But society faces other issues, like poverty, violence, and prejudice, and those problems come to school along with our children. NEA’s convention began just weeks after the Orlando massacre, and police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota occurred during while we were in DC.
Public educators deal with the most diverse populations of any schools, and they are keenly sensitive to the challenges of America’s diversity. The tragedies I’ve mentioned affected both the substance of proposals submitted by NEA delegates and the rhetoric used in the discussion of those proposals.
The great strength of America is the diversity of her people: e pluribus unum–“from many, one”–is more than just an inscription on our national seal. Our great challenge is to make sure that our diversity, whether racial, religious, economic, or sexual, continues to be a source of strength rather than division.
In teaching and in living, we must heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Strength to Love, 1963.)
This post originally appeared on the website of my 2016 campaign for State Board of Education, http://bill4board.us.