An Open Letter to my Friends and Fellow Education Warriors on the Right

It was with dismay and deep concern that I read your responses to the posting on the Parents Across RI facebook page about the Providence Student Union’s event “Youth Meeting: Resisting Trump.”

I hope from the bottom of my heart that this ill feeling does not succeed in dividing us from our shared mission of exposing and derailing the soulless technocratic vision of education coming from the corporate elites, aided by their flexian (See my previous blog post here) counterparts in government at all levels, including functionaries at the federal and state departments of education. I have gotten to know you through fb posts, through face to face informal planning meetings, and through sitting next to you on panel discussions informing parents about the harms of Common Core et al. I respect and trust you as well-informed and well-intentioned partners.

This is not a simple case of sore losers, or of Democrat vs. Republican. The distrust that many people of all ages and ethnicities feel of a Trump Presidency has been engendered by his own words, and by the words and actions of some of those who admire him. As a descendant of generations of Eastern European Jews who were persecuted and ultimately annihilated, I am acutely sensitive to the discrimination that Others feel, and the fear that this discrimination engenders. I have a close friend whose grandson was adopted from Guatemala. This child has no rational reason to fear being taken from his family, but he is terribly upset by what he thinks may happen to him with Donald Trump as President. His situation is far from unique. It’s imperative that we listen to the fears and concerns of young people, and work with them to make sure that the praise-worthy ideals of our country–that each of us in our diversity as human beings deserves respect, dignity, and fairness–are upheld.

The Providence Student Union has been brilliant in its tireless activities to prevent the state from using the high-stakes assessment as a graduation requirement. Through lobbying at the state house and reaching out to elected officials in creative ways, they have also succeeded in expanding bus passes for students, and in creating ethnic studies courses. (BTW, as a former anthropology major in college, I wholeheartedly believe that by exposing all students to the heritage and struggles of their own and other ethnic groups, we will ultimately heal the ugly divisions that have plagued us from the beginning of our country.)

Yes, we need to heal the deep divisions and distrust that have been revealed by this ugly campaign season, but in order to heal we cannot cover up the hurt and proceed as if the mean-spirited rhetoric did not happen. The challenge is to be able to empathize with Others’ trauma and move forward with mutual respect and a willingness to work side by side with those with whom we may disagree, for the common (sorry for the pun) good. I sincerely hope that we are up to the challenge.




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