The delicate balance between solidarity & erasure
For the past 10 days, our fellow educators in Chicago have been teaching. But, they haven’t been teaching their normal lesson plans, filled with rich tasks, investigations, and developing mathematical inquiry. Rather, they’ve spent their last 10 days educating their students, community members, local political officials, and the rest of the world what it looks like to organize a strike that is about more than money.
The Chicago Teachers Union (@CTULocal1) has not only been striking for fair pay, but for smaller class sizes, affordable housing for students, sanctuary policies for immigrant families, and the assurance that every student would have access to a nurse and a school psychologist. Since October 18th, 32,000+ Chicago Public School teachers and staff have been standing their ground as their local unions (Service Employees International Union Local ‘73 & Chicago Teachers Union) have negotiated terms with Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@LightfootforChi).
With the announcement of the strike, Mayor Lightfoot announced the canceling of classes for approximately 360,000 students until a settlement can be reached. Parents, impacted by the sudden lack of consistent and free childcare offered through the services of public school, may fear that their students will fall behind in their studies, having missed six days (and counting!) of formal schooling. Yet, as educators, we must consider that students may learn far more during this six-day reprieve of formal education with the informal learning they are currently garnering. It is in this same vein that I read Glenn Waddell’s (@gwaddellnvhs) tweet, posted earlier this week: “Every act of teaching is a political act. Every. Single. One”. While this post was directed at the topic of lesson planning with a monolingual and monocultural lens based on the work of Dr. Josè Medina (@josemedinajr89), the concept transfers to acknowledge that the learning of these 360,000 students is also political in nature.
In the event of the Chicago Teachers Union Strike, students may be learning about the politics involved in what can often appear to be an apolitical public education. Students may begin to gain understanding as they watch their teachers model what it means to stand for justice. Students may begin to feel the local inconvenience of having a public right (e.g. the right to education) paused in the name of a larger, global civic right and duty. Students may even recognize the agency and power that they hold within themselves to create change.
There is a great deal of education that we fail to name and/or honor because it does not fit in the nice, neat confines of the public schooling of which we have become accustomed. And so, out of necessity, oppression, or ease, it is erased.
Below, I share three examples of erasure in education that I found this week on the wide open world of Twitter.
- The amount of land loss of Native Americans in the last 150 years. Shared by Ranjani Chackraborty (@ranjchak)
This is an example of physical erasure. Many still refuse to recognize the effects of colonization on Native American people, and the acculturation enforced on their children as they attend schools that are centered on the Eurocentric values of their oppressor. Yet, this graphic makes that erasure evident.
What do you notice and wonder about the differences between these two graphs? (Click for the dynamic video
; also scroll for others, & follow Rajani).
#BlackWallStreet & the #TulsaMassacre: With the hit show “Watchmen’s” premiere featuring the Tulsa Massacre, many observers were left wondering why they had never heard of 1) one of the largest massacres in US history, 2) the existence of Black Wall Street, and/or 3) how our public education could erase such a pivotal event. Regina King (@ReginaKing), the star superhero of the show, shared the following tweet to assist viewers in (re)learning the history behind this event.
Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) discussed his desire to erase the phrase, “Does that make sense?” from his teaching vocabulary. The replies in this thread give great examples of how to replace this question with others that may distribute power to students that issues them agency to participate in question forming and answering.
I share these three examples to demonstrate how easily events can be erased from history, from our presence of mind, and from our vocabulary. I also share these examples as an act of solidarity with the teachers of Chicago, as they continue to place their mark on history, and refuse to be erased, while also refusing the erasure of their students’ needs. I celebrate the movement of bringing those on the margins towards the center, and the (re)learning and (re)centering of what we want our students to learn as citizens of our society-at-large. It is most certainly more than just the mathematics we are tasked with teaching in school.
There have been many acts of kindness shown towards the teachers on strike in Chicago. Some have sent pizza, others doughnuts and coffee, and others have shared their time. Chance the Rapper (@ChancetheRapper), a Chicagoan by birth, shared his platform on “Saturday Night Live” to demonstrate solidarity with the teachers, staff, and students, and to remind them that the fight is worth it.
You may wonder how you, individually, can show solidarity with our fellow educators in Chicago. On Twitter, they are using the tags #CTUSEIUstrike, #PutItInWriting, #FairContractNow. The more traffic to these tags, the larger presence that the strike receives from local and national media, and the more pressure applied for both sides to come to an agreement over the terms at stake. The Chicago Teachers Union has asked for educators across the country to use social media to show support by wearing #RedForEd, a similar demonstration of unity in the unprecedented number teacher strikes in 2018, including my home state of North Carolina. We also know from last year that this teacher strike is not specifically about Chicago, and that this movement for justice for this group may usher in justice and opportunity for others.
Whatever your choice in showing solidarity for this group and this moment, may it simply not be to erase it from consciousness and history.
Written by Lauren Baucom, @LBmathemagician