Dear Reimagining Education 2020 Participants,
It is difficult to write a “Welcome” message when we are coming together at an incredibly unwelcoming moment. Thus far, 2020 has been physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. We are tired of fighting and dodging a global pandemic exacerbating stark racial health disparities; tired of fighting for Black lives in the hands of the police; and so, so depleted from mourning the untimely deaths of our elders, parents, siblings, children, colleagues, and friends lost to both. And as with everything in the U.S., the impact of plagues on our society and educational system are separate and unequal, with Black Americans and People of Color disproportionately sickened, set back, and lost.
At the same time, our schools and universities face unfathomable budget cuts, leading some politicians to argue for replacing professional educators with cheaper iPads and software. This shift in resources to heal a pandemic that should have been contained from the beginning affects all of us in the field of education and, most importantly, our children. At the very moment of a renewed need for our educational system to teach our youth how to create and sustain an anti-racist and more healthy and equal society, our schools, too, are at risk.
For the last five years, a team of faculty, students and staff from Teachers College, Columbia University have asked educators from across the U.S. and the world to step back from an educational system that grew out of a colonial era and has remained entrenched in the belief in a racial hierarchy that legitimized colonialism in the first place. We have asked hundreds of teachers, school leaders and district administrators to both individually and collectively reimagine what education can and should be if that hierarchy and the anti-Blackness it perpetuates did not exist — if the knowledge, gifts and ways of knowing of all students were embraced and valued. We have demonstrated the frameworks, lesson plans and pedagogical strategies that make this anti-racist educational agenda possible.
We see the connections between the educational system that we have and the current public health and criminal justice crises. We see that the path to a better future for our nation and the world is through an emancipatory school system guided by educators who are racially literate, who engage in equity pedagogy and culturally responsive leadership. Yes, we are tired, but we are also hopeful and intentionally committed to a reimagined education. We find hope in the fact that even though we cannot all be together on the TC campus in New York City this summer, the demand for this Institute and the shared vision of a better society it fosters is greater than ever. We find hope in the amazing programming that we can provide to you all in this virtual space and that our strands in Teacher Leadership, Health Disparities, Higher Education and Youth Voices have brought more of you to this work.
We have hope. It is time to heal, breathe and regroup. It is time to Reimagine together while apart.
Amy Stuart Wells and Phillip A. Smith, Co-Directors