This Memorial Day, I was thinking of all the men and women of the military committed to service to our country. I was thinking of my father and uncle, both of whom served. I was thinking of my grandfather and great uncles, part of the Greatest Generation, who fought in World War II. As we return from Memorial Day, I hope we can stop fighting over things on the margin and rededicate ourselves to serve in a way that continues the fight for equity and equality in society.
Over time, I’ve had different ways of understanding the United States military. As a little kid, I played with little, plastic soldiers and GI Joe figures. I turned bats into guns. I imagined myself one day standing strong and proud as a soldier myself. I studied political science; little did I know it was the waning days of the Cold War - I graduated college just months after the Berlin Wall fell. I assumed I’d teach for a couple of years before going back to graduate school to study international relations. As a teacher, learning and teaching American history, I became most interested in war as a catalyst for social change. Men and women who served together in the military, who fought, bled and saw friends die for freedom in Europe and Asia, demanded freedom and equality when they returned to the United States.
I’ve committed myself to public service of another kind. I am committed to transforming public education, so that schools create opportunities for children, families and their communities. I am committed to a public school system that helps close the opportunity gap and aspiration gap and thereby the achievement gap.
The bitter irony is that public schools are struggling to create a society that is more just and equitable. Public schools are still incredibly segregated. We may have pockets of excellence and promising innovations. But, inescapably, not enough schools are good enough for all of the students who deserve really good schools.
We all know we need to rethink time and talent, be flexible to use what we’re learning from brain science and emerging technology, recruit, train and support excellent teachers, differentiate for students, involve parents and the broader communities, start early and finish strong, have high expectations of all students and ensure schools are organized to support students to thrive at these high levels.
As we return from Memorial Day, I hope we can stop fighting over things on the margin and rededicate ourselves to serve in a way that continues the fight for equity and equality in society.