We have so many rules in the governance of education that we almost certainly have both just laws and unjust laws in every state.
When laws unjustly affect citizens of color, they are, manifestly, unjust. We have such rules commingled with the rules of teachers’ unions. Look around. Our children of color are disproportionately provided younger, less experienced, and less qualified teachers, and these circumstances chiefly derive from the very rules that “protect” teachers.
There is much work to be done.
Filter, if you will, the depths of Dr. King’s words from 1963 in the Birmingham Jail through the lens of “modern” American education.
King wrote: I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.
There is nothing wrong with requiring teachers to be competent professionals licensed by the state. But when competent professionals are denied a teaching license from the state simply because they have not matriculated through the state-mandated tollbooth of our state-approved teacher preparation programs, the poor and the downtrodden suffer.
To pass a rule for the protection of those who have paid homage to the state is immoral. It is right and just to speak out against injustice anywhere, for Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. It is our duty to protest our failing schools, even if only one-third or only one-quarter of our citizens are denied an excellent education because of our unwillingness to act, because of our complacency to permit the status quo of teacher licensure rules and teacher preparation requirements to continue unabated.
King wrote: Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.
If your child’s teacher is not very good at arithmetic, you are being denied a basic freedom because of the selfishness of established, entrenched interests within the machinery of education. It turns out that not every teacher needs to matriculate through the mandated tollbooth of the colleges of education. We are failing to welcome the public into public schools, and this dangerous precedent has profound consequences for the future of a nation built on freedom and decency.
King wrote: We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws …
May God grant us the wisdom to repair a damaged educational system. Let us work for unity in a system that facilitates a citizenry who reads well and understands the language of numbers. Let us realize that skin color has nothing to do with the mastery of fractions, decimals, and percentages.