In our town we had a high school teacher, I’ll call him Harlen, who, as a young man, was one of the first prisoners taken by the Japanese in World War II. He was a construction worker on Wake Island and was captured when the island fell on December 23, 1941. As a prisoner throughout the war, he endured beatings, a starvation diet, and was forced to help construct roads, bridges, and fortifications for his captors. One of the stories he told me stands out as a model of resistance that we might apply today in our struggle to regain control of our local public schools.
Harlen and his fellow prisoners faced beatings and even death for shirking work or resisting in any way what was required of them. To maintain their personal dignity they felt they had to do something so each prisoner stole one nail a day from the project and tossed it away where it could not be used. If caught with one nail a minor beating might ensue but the prisoner would likely survive. A handful of nails could be disastrous. A small effort? Yes, but over weeks and months each prisoner was able to feel they were contributing to the war effort and it was well worth the risk.
We all know that powerful groups are controlling the fate of our public schools and the futures of the children who attend them. Parents feel marginalized and worry that their actions might bring unwanted attention to their children. Many teachers, principals and other school workers fear for their jobs should they speak out in opposition to high-stakes testing, Common Core, or other misguided policies that narrow opportunities for learning and attempt to standardize our children. My question is, “What is your nail?” What can you, as an individual, do every day to slow the juggernaut?
Here is one suggestion to get you started. Check out the model handouts prepared by Defend-Ed. Copy, modify if you like, and send one to your state legislator. Tomorrow you can send one to the school board president. The next day, ….. You get the idea. A small effort, but over time you and your friends and colleagues can have a tremendous impact as the circles widen and deepen into a tsunami of change.
Get your first nail here: http://defend-ed.org/?s=handout
Check out the Forum section of Defend-Ed for a whole box of nails.