Today the people of Chicago take to the streets to let the plutocracy know that public schools are OUR schools and will not be shut down by fiat. Schools are being defended in Philadelphia and New York. Parents and students are saying no to high stakes testing and yes to opting out. Teachers boycott and strike. The energy is high for next week’s Occupy the DOE 2.0—when we will raise our voices in a great roar of outrage right outside Arne’s house. After the Occupy the DOE there is San Francisco, where educators are planning protests against the neo-liberal infiltration of the American Education Research Association and then back again across the country to New York (and livestreaming) for Reclaim the Conversation on Education. organizing collective actions, and then on back to Chicago for Free Minds Free People.
Not all of us can be in Chicago or Washington DC, but wherever we are, we have battles to wage and stands to take. And that means we have decisions to make about strategies and risks.
Risks are real. Threats are common. Our schools and workplaces are steeped in fear and silencing.
When I spoke with Mike Winerip, the reporter for The New York Times who wrote the story about the Umass students who refused to participate in the Pearson-Stanford field test, he asked me on at least three different occasions if I understood the risk I was taking by speaking out. For the past year I have been trying to make sense of why I don’t quite understand what people mean when they say, “Well, you are an example of what happens when one person stands alone.”
I was not alone. I took the action I did with students—we stood together. I was supported by colleagues, friends, family, and strangers from across the globe. My action emerged from the knowledge and wisdom I gained from my relationships with other activist groups, within the love of my marriage, and with the students who refused Pearson. I did not act alone.
There are real risks. We will and do suffer real consequences. But the experience of activism is of sharing a struggle. Activism takes place within community. It grows from solidarity.
The story of the individual acting alone keeps us locked in the paradigm against which we are fighting. Neo-liberal ideology exalts the individual and denies the community. It’s narrative stokes fears, insists on silence, and results in paralysis.
When we see/reach past the ‘common sense’ narratives that separate us –narratives of individual choices and individual risks- we discover the power, strength and courage of solidarity.
As the movement grows, it will require more decisive, risky and coordinated actions. We need to attend to the first leap of faith in activism: the trust and possibility of solidarity. We need to tell the stories–past and present- of shared struggle.
Watch Chicago, Seattle, listen to the stories of people who stand up and speak out: our strength comes from and with each other.
Say the word solidarity 7 times a day.
Solidarity. Solidarity. Solidarity. Solidarity. Solidarity. Solidarity. Solidarity.