July 2, 2015: 10 for Elene Demoss defender of truth, academic freedom, and fellow teachers.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. I want to leave a committed life behind." He wanted to leave us a path to justice. In many ways my walk is my way of being a drum major of hope for our nation's children, teachers and public schools.
Yesterday while walking with a teacher I was asked the question...Aren't you worried about your job? They are just so powerful, and have so many ways to shut people down.
In 2003 I put together a No Child Left Behind conference at my university called "Children Are More Than Test Scores. " I brought Susan Ohanain a well know opponent of NCLB and a panel of students, parents, teachers, and administrators, and a Congress women from the district together for a discussion of NCLB implications.
Well by the end of the day it was clear the only one defending NCLB was the Congress women. By the next day she was on the phone to the President of our university complaining about me. She told him she needed to speak to whole school of education, because something is wrong with them. She wanted me gone. Elene Demoss one of our Vice Presidents supported me. She arranged for that meeting with the congress women and the whole school of education at a time I could not attend. With Dr. Demoss and others keeping the focus off me I survived that one. I remember saying to Elene. What am I suppose to do about NCLB? I can't stay quiet about something I view as unjust, punitive to children and teachers, and a waste of tax-dollars.
Elene said, you do what faculty at every university should be do... you do the research, and you tell the truth based on your research. I have done the research, and I am walking the truth personally to anyone who will listen. Elene and I became good friends over the years. Elene would be happy to know I am still walking the truth.
As we were coming to the end of our walk together, the teacher said I'm getting braver everyday Jesse. I said I know you are, we all are, and soon the truth shall shatter those walls of testing lies.
Before she left I said I want you to listen a song I been listening to for the past couple of days. It's one my Momma loved called: "I'm gonna live the life I sing about." My mother loved Mahalia Jackson singing it. I have a new cut of the song on my iPhone by the "Last Internationale". So we shared my headphones. As we listen together, I think she came to understand we each have to live the song we hear in our hearts. My song calls me to walk, and on this day this teacher who thought herself not brave walked her song bravely with me. Her song inspires me, her walk compels me to walk, and we are all braver than we believe. “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh”
We parted, I still had a couple of miles to go. As I walked I reflected about Elene Demoss my defender, my colleague, and dear friend who passed away last year. But every step I walk, she walks with me. By the way Elene and I share the same birthday, born decades apart, but linked in living that song in our hearts.
Walking to DC,
The version we shared is by the Last Internationale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEg6qtxTHHE