Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Deferring Dreams, Ignoring Truths, and Wearing Blinders in the United States

On days like today, when I'm exhausted and seeking 60 more minutes of productivity, I hate the limits of the human brain and body. Although I'm paid to teach undergraduate and graduate courses, a 3rd of my job continues to be out in K-12 schools. In Connecticut, when I visit schools ten-minutes apart, it is like visiting varying countries. The disparities are extreme and when a teacher was setting up her class in preparation of Hughes' "A Dream Deferred" I couldn't help to think deeply about these words.

Personally, I'm ready for an explosion - not a Malcolm X rebellion, but a Mandela protest with dignity (although I get the violence, as did S. Africa one day).

In schools, I often see teachers and students festering like sores, unable to find sugar to cover up the realities of their everyday truths with syrupy sweet lies. They are in buildings that are nothing but the truth.

Today, I left thinking about dreams, who is encouraged to have them, and who grow up in communities where they are made possible through economics, parenting, opportunities, and safety. This is not the reality for all youth in this country and many: English language learners, immigrants, African Americans, and the poor are born into what seem to be impossible circumstances. Yes, there are miraculous teachers and students in every school, but to overcome the circumstances of what they know as truth everyday is not an easy task.

When I returned to my office, an email went out asking faculty to come to a fund raiser to help raise money to send college kids to Atlanta for a service learning trip. I am all about giving back to others, but this call bothered me because it advertised a social justice program for working with impoverished immigrants in Atlanta over spring break. The goal is to give college students a vacation with a good cause and funds are being solicited so they have this opportunity. I couldn't help but be cynical. If students want to help out and work with marginalized youth, they can travel three miles east and experience it every day. This made me think about the international service trips to 3rd world countries that cost universities much money, and which return students with pride and new outlook on the world. I wonder, though, at what cost. Who is really benefiting from such service? Why do we send people out of state or overseas to help when there is much needed in many of the schools I visit and within the communities that I work closest with.

I wonder sometimes if we have created a tourist culture for the privileged to go on safari of those living in poverty. Where are the keychains, t-shirts, and gift bags to commemorate participation?
It's troublesome to me and 'sagging' like a heavy load on my brain.

This is what is on my mind Wednesday morning. I'm off to do another day of workshops with youth in such schools. Maybe, just maybe, keeping the dream alive will occur.

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