By HOWARD FULLER AND CHARLES COLE III
We are two Black men separated by 42 years in age. But we are bound by our collective rage about what is happening to our people. We are focused on education where there is more than enough to be angry about. Every day countless numbers of our children do not receive the quality education they must have in order to have even a modicum of a chance to live a decent life in today’s world.
Pictured Left: Charles Cole III. Pictured Right: Howard Fuller. PHOTOS COURTESY OF COLE & FULLER
Yet, when some of us raise our voices and pursue more options for our children, we are accused of supporting “privatization” or doing the bidding of rich “hedge fund” owners or supporting “segregation.”
But we will not be deterred. As long as educational atrocities keep happening to our children, we will seek whatever options there are to help families navigate existing education systems and create new ones that will enable their children to engage in the “practice of freedom.” We support any type of school, educational environment or policy initiative that meets the needs and interests of our children. In the same vein, we will oppose any policies or learning environments that are hurting our childrenwhether they are traditional public schools, charter schools or private schools.
LET’S BE CLEAR ABOUT THE WHY
As we write this, only 17 percent of Black students are considered college and career-ready. According to the National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP), Black fourth-graders represent the largest percentage of students below basic at 49 percent and the lowest percentage proficient at 18 percent and the story gets worse for eighth graders.
More than half (53 percent) of Black eighth-graders nationally are below basic in math.
The consequence isn’t merely poor test scores for our people, it is about what it represents. When we have drastic low achievement our risk of dying grows. We have both buried students and friends that couldn’t read.
When the link between low achievement and poor schooling has a straight line to the death and destruction of our people and we can see it clear as day, we will never stop fighting.
We make this pledge as free Black men who will not be pigeon-holed or intimidated by rhetoric from our opponents and most assuredly we won’t be silenced by their tactic of “guilt by association.”
We say this because those of us who support parent choice are accused of being in bed with Donald Trump. The two of us have been absolutely clear in our opposition to Trump. Our people were fighting for parent choice long before Trump was born. We will not yield on our righteous support for parent choice because this idea is also supported by him or his administration.
We believe there are ways to reach the goals of increasing the power of our people in the educational realm without walking through the fiery gate of the wrong side of history that is Donald Trump.
IT’S GONNA TAKE EVERYBODY
More than ever, likeminded Black folks have to pull together and move as a force in our never-ending struggle to free our children from the so-called “one best system.” In order for that to happen, it is going to take a multi-generational approach, which at various times in our history has been difficult for us to do as a people.
In the battle to change education for our community, too often the elders have not provided space and guidance for the generations behind them.
There have been times when younger people searching for guidance have had doors slammed in their face. On the other hand, elders have sometimes been told their ideas and concerns are no longer of value. The gulf between generations has not served us well in any sphere of struggle and that certainly applies to today’s battles in the education space.
Those of us who choose to raise our voices for our children must find a way to mesh the wisdom of our elders with the energy and the new insights of our younger warriors. We must learn how to fight for our cause by forming alliance of necessity with people whose world view we may not share while not giving up our soul. The veracity of the evil created by Trump and his followers has created new challenges to the political philosophy of no “permanent friends and no permanent enemies only permanent interests.”
But we will find a way together. The pathway for that to happen must be built on mutual respect that provides the foundation for us to develop new strategies and tactics in our battle to ensure that our poorest families have multiple options for their children.
The challenges presented to us by the current poisonous political environment can be our collective moment – our blessing. There’s enough energy, strategy, passion and pain to truly galvanize us across generations to change the reality that parent choice is widespread unless you are poor.
This is our battle and we will not desist nor allow it to be hijacked by Trump or anyone else.
This article originally appeared on EducationPost.org.
Howard Fuller is a civil rights activist, education reform advocate and academic. He is best known for the community organizing work he did in Durham, North Carolina as an employee of Operation Breakthrough, and as a co-founder of the Malcolm X Liberation University in 1969.
Charles Cole III is an educator, writer and speaker who focuses particularly on the advancement of young black males. Recently, he was a community organizer for Oakland Unified School District and is the founder of Energy Convertors.