These days, it seems that those of us fighting to save public education are living in the novel, The Lord of the Rings.
Yesterday, public education advocates, teachers, parents, activists (Opt Out Florida, Parents Across Florida among many others), pastors (Florida Pastors for Children), AFT and NEA (Randy Weingarten and Becky Pringle respectively), Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (Keron Blair), a few politicians (legislators, school board members, and superintendents), and other policy groups gathered in Orlando for the purpose of “Bringing Our Voices” together.
In a follow-up post, GOT will report what took place in the World Cafe format. But given the reaction so far, let’s look at who was and was not at the summit, the Council of Elrond.
Gandalf was not there. As Federick Ingram, a/k/a Fed, opened the conference by saying this: there’s no silver bullet. There’s no wizard from the world beyond who has the answers and the strategy. No one is working behind the scenes to move all the players into the right positions.
The Council met to discuss the problem of the RING, the evil it represents, and how it works to get back to the one who will destroy all that we hold dear.
The RING was there, not physically, but in the minds of all: the policies into which the enemy, the privatizers for profit, the politicians who are getting their cut, and the publicans who support them, poured all their malice and cunning. The RING that would return to the hand of Sauron (Betsy Devos or perhaps DeSantis, Corcoran, Diaz et alia, but maybe I’m reaching here) to finish the overthrow of Middle Earth (public schools.)
Aragorn was there with his Rangers. These are the people who do not work in public schools but long have kept watch and fought the efforts of our enemies to overrun them. They lobby in Tallahassee every year, they organize parents and communities, they push opting out of the destructive testing that is at the heart of all that is wrong with how we teach our children … they came. Like Aragorn, they will journey with the quest as long as they have the strength to do so.
We felt the presence of the dwarves, who are now reacting to posts about the day with criticism. Gimli cried, “Never trust an elf!” The naysayers are crying, “You can’t trust Fed! FEA is useless! We have been talking about the RING forever and nothing happens!”
What would you have us do? Sit within our borders until all is overrun by Orcs? Until no school remains, only charters and private schools, supported by a direct diversion of FEFP tax dollars?
We are to do nothing? Let’s hide the RING away? Until the enemy comes for it in numbers we cannot resist?
In the end, Gimli joined the Fellowship of the Ring. Let’s hope others do as well. In the words of Gandalf (slightly altered), “We must unite or we will fall.”
The elves. Yes, the elves, who are leaving Middle Earth. That brings up the slow-moving walkout of teachers as they give up the profession to undertake new careers.
Yet many elves remain to fight. That was the bulk of the attendees, teachers. Teachers who will not go; teachers who want to remain in Middle Earth. Teachers who came to reinforce and support the dawning of a new age.
There were a few Boromirs, those who came with their own agenda. Boromir’s heart was in the right place, but always he sought to put his own city at the forefront. In the end, he turned out right and GOT is sure that the Boromirs in the room will do so as well.
In the end, the Council of Elrond decided upon a daring deed.
In the end, the summit demanded that attendees commit to action. Most did.
This is Florida. In LOTR, at the worst moment, a captain of Rohan lamented, “We cannot defeat them.”
Theoden, the king, responded, “No, we cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless.”
We are not at the moment. We can defeat them. Let’s rise to the battle. But even if you don’t think public education can win, join us. We will meet them in battle nonetheless.
PS: Always the Hobbits get overlooked. Frodo is the solitary hero, but he did get noticed. GOT is not Frodo, maybe he is Merriadoc Brandybuck. Overlooked, unnoticed, not among the movers and shakers who had to be at the summit but he showed up anyway, GOT is okay with that and will do his part so that, when he joins his forefathers, he will not be ashamed.
PPS: #Voices4Ed. Follow it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms if you want to keep up.