Saturday, February 28, 2015

A is for Apple B is for Badass 

What it means to Badassteachers in the Age of Corporate Education Reform

By: Dr. Yohuru Williams

One of the persistent questions BATS face centers on the name of our organization and what it means to be one of the Badassteachers. A recent interview with a French journalist reminded me of this fact and the necessity for us to revisit regularly the goals and aims of our collective. So what exactly does it mean to be Badass, she asked sheepishly toward the close of our conversation on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. What does the Badassteachers Association believe are the central threats to public education and what makes one a Badass?

It is a question most of us should become adept at answering if we mean to counter the corrosive effect of the narratives of failure that accompany the corporate education reform agenda. As one of the co-founders once observed, we are not trying to resurrect any group from the past. While the rich history of social justice activism informs us, we fully recognize how our situation today calls for organizations and solutions that speak to the unique challenges we face in the present moment.

The essence of what it means to be a Badassteacher can be found in each of the letters that make up our provocative name.

To be clear, the Badassteachers and their allies recognize that the problems we face are

B: Big. The agents of corporate education reform are active in every state of the Union and are financed by individuals like the Koch brothers whose anti-union, anti-teacher schemes have done immeasurable damage to public education. They also understand that corporate education reform is global and that what we fight is one facet of a global education reform movement (GERM) aimed at undermining public education and reducing students worldwide to data points. While we recognize the size and scope of the problem Badassteachers welcome the fight. As our motto states, for too long teachers were forced to suffer in silence as the condition of our public schools eroded and the failure of elected officials to take seriously calls for sober minded reforms such as reducing class sizes and tackling the crippling effects of poverty in our schools. The days of silence have passed. We answer the big challenge with an even bigger commitment to fighting for social justice for our kids and communities across the globe.

A: Action Oriented. What distinguished Badass teachers is their penchant for action. Whether on social media or boots on the ground, real Badassteachers seek to be at the center of the fray, challenging high stakes testing, standing up to politicians, and demanding equity for our students. This is because BATS recognize that the need for action is central to our fight against the corporate education reform industry. We recognize and appreciate the need to challenge the narrative of school failure whenever and wherever it presents itself. We are prepared to vote with our feet as the brave students and education activists have done in New York, Newark, Los Angles, Providence, Philadelphia, and Chicago to stamp out the vestiges of inequality that plague our communities and reclaim our schools.

D. Dedication. Being a Badass requires a level of dedication that transcends casual engagement and takes on an all or nothing mentality with regard to education activism. The state moderators who run this organization from the Bronx to Baton Rouge share a common resolve to get in this fight and stay in this fight until all public school students have the schools they deserve. They share the fundamental belief that schools are the nucleus of communities and that partnership between parents, students, and teachers holds the key to designing schools of the future that will develop our youth and preserve democracy. Badass Teachers and their allies will accept nothing less.

A: Assertive. Badass Teachers know that the only way to check the dangerous incursion of corporate education reform is to be clear and thoughtful in their approach. For this reason, Badassteachers read and study the issues. They read the Bat Blog and other independent sources of information such as Diane Ravitch’s blog that expose the true corporate education reform agenda. They are always ready to share in a fresh and accessible manner our core concerns over issues as high stakes testing, the expansion of charters at the expense of funding for public education, the school to prison pipeline and the need for the recruitment and retention of more teachers of color.

S. Serious. Badass teachers recognize the seriousness of this fight and our need to be steadfast in our approach to fighting for the schools our students deserve. This includes insuring that a full range of academic interventions remains available to our students as well as sustained funding for libraries, music and the arts and other non-negotiable necessities essential to the development of well-rounded students.

S. Surgical. Badass Teachers recognize global education reform as an infectious disease, which, if left unchecked threatens to corrupt the very fabric of our society at the same time it chokes the very life from our schools. We focus on building coalitions and working with other educational activist who recognize the need for us to move incisively but with surgical precision against those practices that would cause the greatest harm to students. Most importantly, however we recognize ourselves as the professionals with the knowledge and skills to perform the difficult procedures necessary not simply to patch up our schools but restore them to good health.

So, the next time someone asks you what it means to be one of the Badassteachers, considering sharing this blog with them, or better yet invite them to visit our Facebook page, website or Twitter feed. Explain to them why we feel it is necessary to stand up for public schools and how this fight is intimately connected to the preservation of American democracy. Tell them that there is plenty of room under this tent for all those willing and committed to really put students first and contest for the type of public schools that all youth regardless, of race, class, or test scores deserve. Finally, yet importantly remind them that when it comes to fighting for social justice in public education the surest place to be in the storm is with the legions of BATS as we start to swarm.

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