With the rise of, and the accompanying fervor and enthusiasm for, the Badass Teachers Association, a bit of Devil’s advocacy from educator and blogger Shaun Johnson on @thechalkface.
I read this post, and subsequent comments he made on the BAT Facebook page as I was leaving for a trip into the mountains, in an attempt to decompress after a moderately stressful school year of my own. A chance to get away from the city, from the computer, from the phone, and just soak up Rocky Mountain splendor. But alas, I could not get away from Johnson’s words, and for three days I’ve been asking myself the same question:
Am I a slacktivist?
After some serious reflection, I think not, though I certainly once was. But his posts gave me enough pause to consider addressing others of my ilk that I believe make up the bulk of the BAT group: teachers that are mad as hell about the state of public ed. in the United States but may not know how to do anything about it.
I am not an expert. I have never chained myself to a bulldozer in a rainforest or been tased and arrested in a state capitol building. But over the past year, I have gradually become more educated, more involved, and more vocal in the fight to save our schools from corporate raiders, empty suits, and ideology-driven politicians. And as I become more involved and embark upon my inevitable destiny of making speeches delivered through a bullhorn from the steps of some government edifice or other, I would like to share my series of baby steps away from slacktivism. Consider this the first part in an as-yet-undetermined number of installments.
The fact that you’ve joined a group like the BATs really is a positive step. You admit there’s a problem that is not being addressed properly, you’re looking for like-minded people to share your story with. Some of you are probably shocked at the stories you are hearing. The more stories you read, the angrier you become. Excellent. To quote the bard: “Be this the whetstone of your sword. Blunt not the heart, enrage it.” Get passionate. Stand for something. This is your career, your livelihood. This is the job you chose despite the long hours and lousy pay. People who know precisely zero about what it’s like to be in a classroom are making your decisions for you. Get angry. Get tough. Make some noise.
Next, if you are not already, start following the education blogs. There are many, many strong voices for public education out there, and knowing the issues is key. Read Johnson and Tim Slekar, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, Crazy Crawfish, EduShyster, Mercedes Schneider. Read the bloggers they link to on their sites. Follow them on Twitter and read the links they post. Learn enough about the issues that you can cite specific research or news stories at the drop of a hat when challenged in person or online:“Parent trigger laws? Yeah, that worked like a charm in Adelanto.”
The power of social media in activism, at this point, simply cannot be denied, and I believe this is our greatest advantage. To network with people we know and share stories about the dismantling of public ed with them, and to enlist them into our cause. What still surprises me is the number of people out there, teachers included, who are mostly clueless about the state of public ed. School board elections tend to have the lowest voter turnout of any local elections because few realize what is at stake of late. People need to know what game is afoot, and you need to tell them. Post links to pro-public education blogs and stories in the media on your Facebook page. Make your views on current ed. policy known via your status updates. I’m not saying quit sharing your vacation photos to make room for your political views, but keep on your pro-public ed. message frequently. I do have lots of Facebook friends that are educators, but I also am friends with former students, parents, and other community members, and it’s these folks that will help us turn the tide, provided we get the word out to them.
To be honest, you will likely lose a couple FB friends along the way. I received a message from a college acquaintance of mine just last month: “If you don’t stop ranting about education all the time on Facebook, I’m gonna have to unfriend you.”
Shoot, that’s a badge of honor right there.
Next time: Twitter bombing and other mischief