Change starts somewhere, with someone. It doesn’t just happen.
As Americans we have watched change unfold in Egypt over the past three weeks. Permanently etched in our minds will be the images of thousands and thousands of disenchanted Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square. Hands, fists, victory signs, flags and even babies were held high in the air as the throngs demanded real and substantial change in their own country.
For over 30 years, the common person in Egypt has been disenfranchised from hope, from a chance to achieve personal success based upon their own merits. Success and opportunity were commodities that were brokered with power and political influence. Imagine how frustrating it must have been for creative, talented and motivated people to be stymied not because of their own abilities, but because of who they knew, or didn’t know.
One of the things that made the revolution even more impressive is that, for the most part, it was done peacefully with force in numbers.
Exactly where it all began will be told in history books for years and years. But one thing is most certain: it began with someone, somewhere.
I cannot help but draw a parallel to the authentic, grass roots revolution that unfolded in the streets of Cairo and throughout the cities and villages of Egypt with the challenges we face today in public education.
Like the oppressed Egyptians, who have been unable (until now) to break out of a system that stagnated growth opportunities and that stamped out creativity, imagination and the potential of millions, the same is true for the students and teachers in so many of our classrooms.
The foundation for the educational system we are still using today is even more antiquated than the new order that Hosni Mubarak brought into Egypt upon the death of Anwar Sadat over 30 years ago. In fact, our antiquated educational system, in its current general state, is over 60 years.old. The system we use today was a good for the time it was designed. The system that Mubarak instituted at the time of great transition in Egypt may have been good for that time as well. However, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Whenever something is instituted in any organization, but most especially in government run entities, two natural human tendencies manifest themselves: resistance to change and the power of favoritism.
No different from Egypt, school board members and some educational leaders exercise dominion over those they are supposed to serve. Board members make decisions to keep themselves in “power” versus what is in the best interest of teaching and learning. As a litmus test, go to your next local school board meeting and see how much time is actually spent BY THE BOARD ITSELF talking about that most important central purpose of schools. I personally have had the displeasure to work with a board member who bragged that he had not been in most of the schools that were in his district.
Furthermore, when board members and their administrative henchman utilize their station to fulfill favor or take care of their friends instead of making student-centered decisions, we further fall into the abyss of Egypt-like entrenchment.
The good news is that even though our system is very deeply riddled with many of the structural ills found in Egypt, we too can change it.
I have heard parents, students, teachers, and administrators say time and time again that they are frustrated with the educational system. Personally, I think 60 years is about 59 too long.
Change just doesn’t happen. It starts somewhere with someone.
Let us be inspired by the recent events in Egypt. Let us call to memory our own forefathers who stood up against a system that was unfair, wrong and unproductive.
And let me start by raising my hand.