Rosa Parks and The Meaning of 'No'

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 9:05 pm
PostPost subject: Rosa Parks and The Meaning of 'No'
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written November 5, 2005

As I write this, Rosa Parks lies in state beneath the Capitol Rotunda.

Rosa Parks’s unexpected individual refusal affected every one of us sharing this unique window of history as it shook the ground supporting one of the worst legacies of segregation: the legacy of individual fear. Rosa’s “No” resounds for all who once were and still are complacent or passive participants in an American social system shamed by racism.

I believe that our system of education—and the culture that feeds it—is also a social system based on collective fear and control—a sad, ongoing acceptance of basic rights denied to children and teachers that persists because of an incapacity to speak out. Jonathan Kozol’s new book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, documents the historic fact of continued segregation of America’s schools.

Granted, people in schools aren’t being attacked with hoses and clubs, but if you look carefully, you can see how children and teachers are abused—physically, mentally and spiritually—in the name of academics. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist, Anna Quindlen recently called testing, the bedrock of American schooling, ‘educational child abuse '. A system based on rigid, zero-tolerant thinking has helped make this backsliding possible.

Our children are subjects of a system equipped with its own propaganda platform and academic credential supported by commercial interests and government decree. Some would argue that this view of education is negative. I say we deserve public schools that work according to a universal definition of education that puts children and teachers in touch with their own power, not under the thumb of state, corporate or political power.

A culture that denies children recess and force-marches them through a forest of facts and figures has no respect for the innate hunger and imagination of young minds. I believe children have a ‘civil right’ to learning experiences - in that artificial light of ‘the box’ sometimes called ‘the classroom” - that are sparked by energy: in humor, smiles, excitement, anticipation, curiosity, passion and in the freedom to express, question and explore. If adults are going to be with children in a system of compulsory learning, then the time they spend should generate such energy, not smother it.

In 1955 Rosa Parks’s daily ride in her ‘box’—on that Montgomery bus—kept her in social, psychological and emotional isolation, subject to fear and personal retribution from people who believed they were entitled to dictate to people ‘like Rosa’ what to do and when to do it. Until she said, “No.”

Teachers have always had superiors to report to, but not until the recent movement toward standardized learning were they harnessed, handed pacing-charts and, under the guise of academic accountability, told what and how and when to teach. Many teachers complain, but not openly, actively or politically. They now accept this dictated reality as “life.” (They, too have their ‘box’). Meanwhile, as America’s learning culture grows progressively robust with test scores, it diminishes in vision and voice. As a former head of student teaching at the University of Pennsylvania said to me, “These are dark days for education.”

I look forward to the day when the voices of educators take a page from Rosa’s life, and declaring “No”, dispel the darkness.

Then again, perhaps for teachers the word is “Yes.”

I created Puppetools because I could hear the voices of children in free, uncensored response to puppet play, filled with joy, delight, and self-assertion. We can all learn and derive inspiration from their voices—the voices of “YES!”—exuberant, believing, and unbridled—voices that learning cultures everywhere deserve, rather than the voice of government intent on teaching us all ‘a lesson.’

I created Puppetools so that adults who work with children (and parents who need to question the kind of learning experiences schools conventionally provide for their children) could see how the voice of “Yes” resonates in the midst of a learning culture currently founded on “No.”

I believe that the energy created by the medium of puppetry—and its natural conversion into a ‘teaching language’—constitutes a communication platform capable of not only neutralizing the chemistry of “No”, but setting in motion that irresistible wave of “Yes.”

There are now over 200 of us in the Puppetools community—many of you from places all around the globe. Each of you registered for an individual reason. Some of you entered perhaps to pick up a free puppet pattern. Others may have liked the site and wanted casually to explore. A small number of you have expressed delight at my effort to create a platform for change. Some may not have given it further thought.

I am asking each of you now to re-visit your individual reason for joining this community—and its unique opportunity for collaboration.

Read the teacher journals and examine their remarkable consistency. What do they say about authentic engagement of students in their learning? What do they say about the role of teachers in liberating that spark of enlightenment in children? Ask, “What is one thing I can do to conduct an experiment of my own? What is happening in my work with children that might be served by using a playful approach to communication—the results of which I might share with others?”

By examining our work with children together, we may better see the results and implications—and showcase them so that others might see.

If we continue as we are now, we remain a sleeping giant, unaware of what individual action can mean or achieve. Through awareness and intentionality, we can exercise individual power to learn from the voices of children and their capacity to ‘throw a power switch’ as they engage in the act of play. Collectively, with this power, we share in the potential to change the world of ‘education as we know it’.

Rosa Parks said “No” to the darkness that engulfed her world. Her steadfast refusal to give up her seat on a bus drove a thunderbolt through centuries of darkness and the light of awareness streamed in. Suddenly, because of her personal example, we saw her light.

Listen to the “Yes” in the voices of children. Work actively and intentionally, individually and collectively with me in our Puppetools community. Vision, belief, and the strength to act in concert are needed. Let’s explore that vision so that our beliefs become strong and our actions resonant. There is extraordinary light out there with the potential to illuminate the education horizon. Let’s let it in.
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Joined: 27 Jun 2006
Posts: 1
Location: Holliston, MA, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 9:41 am
PostPost subject: Rosa Parks
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Rosa Parks is one of my main heroes in life. She was simply tired and didn't want to get up for a man because a man shouldn't be asking an older woman to do so. She stood up for what was right. You go girl!!! May we all follow in your footsteps!
Peace needs to happen.....we may as well make it happen now.
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