Last week I wrote about students who marched to protest budget cuts in the Philadelphia School District. Then I posed a simple question: Where are the adults?
Soon after that, all hell broke loose. Or so it seemed.
In reality, there were a few people who repeatedly commented and tweeted and emailed because they felt that their efforts in protesting the budget cuts were enough; that their marches and calls to political offices were sufficient; that their very real efforts to stop the bleeding were good enough.
In reality, those efforts were and continue to be admirable, necessary, and positive. But those acts of protest should not be applauded. They should be expected.
When our kids are in trouble, adults should be expected to step up and do everything we can to defend them. When the School District of Philadelphia shutters 24 schools and could face a $304 million deficit next year, parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, neighbors, and entire communities should fight tooth and nail to change that reality.
But those of us who have entered the fray should understand that we don’t own the issue. We should be welcoming other people to fight beside us. That is, if we truly want to win.
Therein lies the problem. Some Philadelphians are more concerned with protecting their own interests than fighting on behalf of our children. I am not. If I lose a few relationships, so be it. If I’m castigated by so-called activists, that’s fine. If I’m accused of minding other people’s business, I can live with that, but I will not sit by and watch as these children are screwed out of their educations. And I will not back off the assertion that we adults are not doing enough. Here’s why.
There were 137,512 kindergarten-to-12th grade students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia as of December 2012. That means a rally with 1,000 parents is a great achievement, but when each student has at least one parent, neighbor, caretaker or community member who is responsible for them, such rallies beg the question: Where is everyone else?
That’s a legitimate concern, but when it is raised, there are those who immediately try to shout down the questioner. Why? I believe that reaction stems from the belief that only certain people are qualified to speak up on behalf of our children.
Well, I think it’s time for all Philadelphians to stand up and say this clearly: No one parent group, or non-profit, or publication is the sole arbiter of what happens with Philadelphia’s schools. No parent or teacher or administrator or politician or self-proclaimed advocate has the right to lay claim to our schools. These are our children. These are our communities, and we will shout to the rafters until our cries are heeded.
To those adults who have marched, and written letters, and held rallies, and made phone calls, that’s good. Keep doing that, and while you’re at it, recruit others. But don’t pat yourself on the back yet, because the fight is far from over.
To those who have sat on the sidelines—and the numbers say they are in the majority—it’s time to get up and do something. It’s time to join the fight. It’s time to break the silence.
And to the so-called activists who are even now preparing to send me emails and tweets to tell me how wrong I am, do our kids a favor. Don’t waste your energy on me. Send your tweets to Governor Corbett. He’s the one who’s cutting the education budget.
I’m just another voice in the fight to make things right.