Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966. It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1. There is a focus principle each day of the holiday. Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system. Today’s principle is ujima/collective work and responsibility – to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Education can feel like a dog eats dog world; it’s the world of the have and have-nots. Unfortunately, so people have become too comfortable overlooking the have nots. I left an A school to go work in an F school, and people thought I was crazy. “Shawnta, why would you want to work at that school? Aren’t you worried?” Yes, I was worried, not about myself, but for those kids. When people questioned my decision, I would reply, “Don’t these kids deserve effective educators too?” I’m not alone. I know other talented educators who have chosen to leave a ‘good’ school and work in a ‘bad’ school.
There shouldn’t be any ‘bad’ schools. We need to work collectively to find ways to eliminate failing schools forever. Efforts that could have been effective in some schools, but they failed because people weren’t working together or felt it wasn’t their problem. For the third year in a row, Indianapolis’ homicide rate is at an all time high. If we want issues like homicide to be dealt with, we have to acknowledge that our neighbor’s problems are our problem. If my neighbor’s child can’t read; it’s my problem. If kids are staying home from school in the winter because they don’t have a coat, it’s my problem. We have to be willing to be our brother’s keeper if we would like our education system to improve.