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“What do you think might happen if one worked around the clock in a given community — selflessly — and managed to increase positive test scores in a school by 50% and reduce violence in the neighborhood by 50%? Do you think for one moment that the ‘success’ would be limited to that realm?” — Richard Martin Oxman

“Whenever anyone offers to do something gratis they’re always suspect in the dominant culture, which prides itself on never doing anything for nothing. Our educational setups reinforce selfishness, which is what usually comes from being trained to follow one’s passions these days of… no sense of Eternity.” — Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel

It never seems to occur to well-meaning non-profits that they can’t expect to prevail over their opposition working 9 to 5, Monday through Friday or Saturday. You’d think it would be common sense that if your opposition was going at it non-stop seven days a week, ’round the clock, that you’d be unlikely to win out on any significant count once the scorecard was in.

But no, that isn’t the case. In fact, the highly educated and deeply experienced souls grinding it out in fighting the good fight aren’t even discussing this issue. Nationwide, worldwide.

My concern at present is in the realm of dissident academia. And just to be perfectly clear from the outset, it’s my humble opinion — conviction, truth be told — that any educational institution worth its weight needs to find the status quo grating, at the very least, just waiting to be turned on its academic head. For, from my point of view, pretty much all educational setups are presently aiding and abetting EMPIRE and INJUSTICE (in boldfaced, italicized and underscored caps, yes).

The links provided above lead the reader to quite a radical site, Black Agenda Report out of New  York. I don’t want to lose anyone prematurely, however, so permit me to emphasize that one does NOT have to agree with every nut and bolt embedded in the articles provided to engage in leisurely discussion about exactly what role is being played by whom with regard to issues which are dear to our collective hearts. Certainly, such exchanges are NOT taking place leisurely, though, any more than dialogue about the issue I spotlighted in my opening is happening… anywhere. Not leisurely, not in depth.

No matter. That can change easily. And one simple way to go about making it possible for good folks to sit down with one another and do justice to the concept of “civic engagement” is for someone to make themselves available to one and all ’round the clock. Being there for back and forth at the convenience of very busy souls struggling to make ends meet each and every day, by the hour in some cases. “Want to talk, argue? I’m here, and I’m staying here, so we don’t have to resort to doing what everyone else does these days.” Which is to shout out an opinion and take off on the run, giving less than a damn about what anyone else might think, not caring whatsoever about whatever definitive documentation might be available on a given issue.

In other words, I’m calling for intelligent, compassionate interaction among concerned citizens, and offering to be “up” for exploring issues in depth with other citizens. Literally, that’s what I’ve offered the Local School Council members of William Penn Elementary School, which was singled out in a recent article on this site by a trusted colleague. That piece underscored the importance of educational institutions embracing dissent, and I have reason to believe that the leaders of the community who are responsible for decision-making in that realm will be open to questioning the parameters imposed on them and the children and families they serve by the powers that be in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

We’ll see, but certainly any school named after the “dissident” William Penn should be open to the likes of me and my disturbing ideas. Which represent, truth be told, no more and no less than what Dr. Martin Luther King begged for people to discuss and do something about as far back as his “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

It would be a slam dunk for me to recruit professional volunteers to serve alongside me 24 x 7 at the school, helping the teachers to help the youngsters prepare for the required tests that are being forced on the faculty. And, at the same time, my volunteers and I could be around to serve as assets for the instructors, and make ourselves available to parents and other loved ones and members of the community at their convenience. Tutoring and all sorts of other offerings could be included, along with distributing of nutritious food referenced in the article by Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel above. AND making the obligatory attempt to reduce violence in the area. Nothing to lose with that attempt for the community, and everything to gain for the community.

The whole ambitious operation, the well-meaning effort, might fail. For it’s all very much like fighting a five-hundred-foot wave with a  teaspoon. The thing is, the attempt must be made. And it cannot be made without some core group of dedicated souls applying their heartbeats to The Cause ’round the clock. Because anything short of that will guarantee failure.

It’s as simple as that. The 24 x 7 approach has to be embraced.

Marcel Duchamp Oxman, a teacher at the Flannery O’Connor Academy, and has been an educator on all levels for many decades. He can be reached at aptosnews@gmail.com. The author believes that one of the pluses of embracing the above proposal is the potential for ripples being sent out nationwide and worldwide. Success in Chicago would not be limited to Cook County there. Wherever victory takes place, whenever inroads of any kind are carved out seeds are planted, which stand to bloom anywhere.

 

 

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