I’m sitting here in Newark Airpork waiting for my plane to take me back to the West Coast for a couple of days prior to returning to Australia. The invaluable learning experience over the past month will be shared with my colleagues on my return.
Over the past month, I’ve noticed that everything in the United States is supersized. From cars to grand tall buildings, food portions and coffee cups, (in which I had to tell waiters for entree sizes and point to the smallest coffee cups when ordering) and the glamour of show business. Supersized is also in quantity from yellow school buses, yellow cabs, museums (and I’m museumed out) and the number of professional dog walkers throughout the major cities that I’ve visited.
I’ve enjoyed seeing everyone lining up on the streets of New York City for entry into Broadway shows, even when all the seats are designated as though this is taught at school from early years. It seems that lining up is a sport along with baseball, NFL, ice hockey and basketball. The US has it all, or do they?
It was visiting places like Harlem and museums that highlighted the struggle for social justice and equality that brought home the truth about America for me – that is, despite all the supersized, it’s the people like Ida Wells who was a slave and eventually campagined against lynching laws after being dragged from the carriage of a train on the basis of race and colour, or journalist Moses Newson travelling with the Freedom riders back in 1961 when their bus was attack and burnt for similar reasons. No doubt, there have been many more people throughout history who have been part of change but their stories are seldom told as publicly. It was also quite moving on my second last day in Washington DC to visit the Holocast Museum (and viewing horrific photos that reminds us that decisions have consequences), Arlignton Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial and finally ended the day at the memorial of Martin Luther King and the steps of where he gave that great speech.
In a modern world, we need supersized advocates for social justice, freedom, equality and those that strive for peace and tolerance, especially since parts of our world is currently in crisis. Schools have a role to play in developing students with values such as fairness, respect, care, integrity, responsibility and democracy through the provision of student voice, modelling by staff and the display of daily interpersonal relationships by all keystakeholders. As educators, we need to encourage students to speak out against injustice, bullying and any forms of discrimination, as those this is the norm.
Yesterday, I walked into the Charles Sumner School Museum and privately walked through the four floors of exhibitions. It’s one of the less know museums but displayed school photos and portraits from surrounding schools in the last century. It was quite evident in many of the photos that African Americans went to separate schools, whether it was by choice or Government policy. It was advocates with strong values, that could see how the world could be rather than how the world existed that ultimately made change in equality in some of these schools. it was quite noticeable that some of these school photos with graduating years changed in cultural diversity in more recent years.
Everyday in the US, Australia and globally, there are so many wonderful educators working in difficult circumstances. I’ve been fortunate to meet and speak to so many school leaders in the past month and to listen to their world of complexities. Yet, they strive to instil the values of excellence and fairness with their students, despite the circumstances of their context. These educators are truly making a difference, far beyond what is measured and valued by those not involved in schools on a daily basis.
So let’s supersized the Ida Mays and the Moses Newson in our world, and the global educators that continually make a difference to children’s lives, and the social advocates that strives to make a change against the injustice that exist in our world.