“You may have thought you were going to discourage us, but instead you have encouraged us. The more you push us back, the more we will fight to go forward. The more you try to oppress us, the more you will inspire us.”
No one exemplifies this movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who was the Network for Public Education 2016 conference keynote speaker today in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.
You can read about the history of Moral Mondays in this great piece in the Nation.
The Moral Monday protests transformed North Carolina politics in 2013, building a multiracial, multi-issue movement centered around social justice such as the South hadn’t seen since the 1960s. “We have come to say to the extremists, who ignore the common good and have chosen the low road, your actions have worked in reverse,” said Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the leader of the Moral Monday movement, in his boisterous keynote speech. “You may have thought you were going to discourage us, but instead you have encouraged us. The more you push us back, the more we will fight to go forward. The more you try to oppress us, the more you will inspire us.”
Rev. Barber’s activism is not limited to North Carolina. He is fast becoming a powerful national advocate for public education. Will he be the next Martin Luther King Jr.? This is readily apparent in his recent blog post for The Hill, where he calls on Congress to “fix the high stakes testing regime that has failed.” Make sure to read his post and share it widely. Here is an excerpt:
When Congress enacted the ESEA in 1965, everyone knew education opportunities for black children were radically unequal to the opportunities for white students. Now, 50 years later, these gaps persist and are widening–despite the law’s promise to level the playing field for the nation’s most vulnerable students.
The last time Congress reauthorized ESEA, they and President George W. Bush established high-stakes testing, labeling, and policies that punish schools if kids flunked the tests. Tests don’t teach. Nurturing creative adults who know how to draw out individual children are what education is about. We don’t send our kids to school to become skilled test takers. We pay our taxes and send our kids to public schools because we need future corporate CEOs, cardiologists and aerodynamic engineers, university presidents and school principals, urban planners and architects. Our sons and daughters can’t reach these heights when accountability in our education system hinges on standardized test scores, not cultivating intellectual opportunity—the real measure of education. Standardized tests can tell us only so much. Educators know that annual multi-dimensional assessments that tell us whether a child is falling behind, whether she or he needs intervention and support the school can’t provide, or if a youngster is on track to graduate are the tools they need—not a single number.
Congress has a chance to fix the high stakes testing regime that has failed. Congress has the chance to deliver on its promise of educational opportunities for all students, especially the nation’s most vulnerable ones, which is the purpose of ESEA. Congress has the chance to repair the breach caused by sins and systems of slavery and segregation.
NPE President Diane Ravitch has called Rev. Barber “a major national figure in the civil rights movement.” Below you can hear his eloquent plea in Raleigh for justice and decency in our time.
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