Money and Guilt

I have done a less than stellar job at updating this blog.  Between going to New Orleans two weekends in a row, working, and trying to catch up on sleep, I haven’t had much time to do anything else.  I usually start out projects like this with stellar intentions, but then my dilligence is replaced by my need for sleep or social interaction, and I lose sight of what I initially wanted to accomplish.

This internship has left me in an extremely strange place.  I have begun to try to ask a lot of questions of myself in order to understand my place in the scheme of closing the achievement gap.  It startles me a bit that education is/has become such a partisan issue.  I feel like I’m surrounded by fairly liberal people who believe that every child has the right to an excellent education.  Equal education has become such a staple of the Democratic party, and I wonder why this can’t be more of a human concern.  I recognize my own privilege as a white, upper middle class female.  However, I don’t especially identify with the entitlement to resources that I have seen others exhibit.  I understand Teach for America’s logic in recruiting the “best and the brightest” to educate the nation’s most needy students, but such a large part of me wants to address the status of these students and examine why and how they got there.  I understand that it’s so important to educate students who are disadvantaged.  I just want to know who is working to tackle the systems of inequality that exist due to politics, housing districts, unequal pay, etc. Shouldn’t someone work to address racial and demographic inequality and unfairness?  I am in no way discounting the work that Teach for America does to assure that one day, all children will be able to attain an excellent education.  I wonder how much of teaching in today’s classrooms works to teach towards assessments and state tests versus teaching tailored to educational excellence and scholarship.  Part of me wants to look at the testing strategies and the children that are getting left behind because these strategies are not working.

I am reading a book right now called the Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks.  Henrietta Lacks was a poor African American woman who went to John’s Hopkins for cancer treatment.  Some of her cells were taken from the cancer for doctors to conduct research. Her cells (referred to as HeLa cells) have been instrumental in research of all types because these cells were able to live and reproduce outside of her body.  There is an alarming parallel between the inequality that Henrietta and her family face and the educational inequality I’ve witnessed every single day here in the Delta.  I look around, and I look at the shacks and the broken down houses I see everywhere, and I can’t help but feel ashamed at our country’s lack of regard for such a rich area of cultural history.

On Sunday I went to the lake in Grenada, Mississippi.  On the way home we drove through Money, Mississippi.  Money is the town in which Emmett Till was murdered.  We drove over the Tallahatchie River where his body was dumped.  I felt so haunted by these areas and the dark histories they hold.  I don’t know how a place recovers after battling demons like those: maybe it doesn’t.  The air felt sour and stagnant, like there was a cloud of sawdust over Money.  I don’t know if what  felt was the presence of guilt or shame or spirituality.  Whatever the case, I feel blessed to be here, and I feel blessed to have been a part of transformational change of some kind, even if I think that it isn’t necessarily sustainable change.


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