The Next American Revolution

“Our educational system has been set up to supply the next generation of technicians and bureaucrats of the global economy, an economy that is fundamentally undemocratic because it destroys our communities, robs us of control over our daily lives, and reduces us to passive consumers. Instead of viewing the purpose of education as giving the students the means for upward mobility or helping the United States to compete in the world market, we need to recognize that the aptitudes and attitudes of people with BAs, BSs, MBAs and PhDs bear a lot of the responsibility for our planetary and social problems. Formal education bears a large part of the responsibility for our present crisis because it produces morally sterile technicians who have more know-how than know-why. At a time when we desperately need to heal the Earth and build durable economies and healthy communities, too many of our schools and universities are stuck in the processes and practices used to industrialize the Earth in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

We can’t change the whole system overnight. But we need to know what we would put in its place, and we can take advantage of the present crisis to begin working to create new models with the teachers, principals, and parents all over the city who have given themselves permission to think differently from the powers-that-be. To achieve the miracle that is now needed to transform our schools into places of learning, we need to tap into the creative energies of our children and our teachers.

In connection, we have much to learn form the struggles in Alabama and Mississippi in the early 1960s.

In the spring of 1963 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Dr. King launched a “fill the jails” campaign to desegregate downtown department stores and schools in Birmingham. But few local blacks were coming forward. Black adults were afraid of losing their jobs, local black preachers were reluctant to accept the leadership of an “Outsider,” and city police commissioner Bull Connor had everyone intimidated. Facing a major defeat, King was persuaded by his aide, James Bevel, to allow any child old enough to belong to a church to march. So on D-day, May 2, before the eyes of the whole nation, thousands of school children, many of them first graders, joined the movement and were beaten, fire hosed, attacked by police dogs, and herded off to jail in paddy wagons and school buses. The result was what has been called the “Children’s Miracle.” Inspired and shamed into action, thousands of adults rushed to join the movement. All over the country rallies were called to express outrage against Bull Connor’s brutality. Locally, the power-structure was forced to desegregate lunch counters and dressing rooms in downtown stores, hire Blacks to work downtown, and begin desegregating the schools. Nationally, the Kennedy administration, which had been trying not to alienate white Dixiecrat voters, was forced to begin drafting civil rights legislation as the only way to forestall more Birminghams.

The next year as part of Mississippi Freedom Summer, activists created Freedom Schools because the existing school system (like ours today) had been organized to produce subjects, not citizens. People in the community, both children and adults, needed to be empowered to exercise their civil and voting rights. A mental revolution was needed. To bring it about, reading, writing, and speaking skills were taught through discussions of black history, the power structure, and building a movement. Everyone took this revolutionary civic course, then chose from more academic subjects such as algebra and chemistry. All over Mississippi, in church basements and parish halls, on shady lawns and in abandoned buildings, volunteer teachers empowered thousands of children and adults through this community curriculum.

The Freedom Schools of 1964 demonstrated that when Education involves young people  in making community changes that matter to them, when it gives meaning to their lives in the present instead of preparing them only to make a living in the future, young people begin to believe in themselves and to dream of the future.”

The above is an excerpt form Grace Lee Boggs’s Book:

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century