“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 13 days, I will turn 39.
Wow. How did this happen? I feel like this is almost as big a milestone as 40 (yes, stay tuned til next year!).
I have been in Hong Kong for a week and a half and will be here for another month. As in our move to Australia, being away from ‘home’, wherever that is, always puts life and it’s silliness and seriousness into perspective.
Time and space away from the oppressive culture that is my professional life in Australia has brought an invigorating clarity. Both the mental and physical distance have been soul nourishing and have brought to the forefront for me the reflections of self about what qualities are essential: integrity, the courage to do the right thing and not allowing fear to run my life.
“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”~MLK, Jr
That’s not to say I’m not afraid. To the contrary, maintaining healthy fear and being aware and alert are critical. However, letting that fear overrun me, allowing the fear to overshadow my integrity or the ability to do the right thing is unacceptable.
“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.”~MLK, Jr
Some call this stupid; some call me stupid (the latter being unable to distinguish between person and action — I have little time for those people). I call it setting a good example and demonstrating to my son (and the other people in my life who matter) that the bullies don’t always have to win; that the strong and seemingly powerful are not always dominant; that right can win over wrong…it just depends on how ‘win’ is defined.
For me, a ‘win’ could be speaking truth to power, even if nothing happens as a result. Even if those in power aren’t listening, I have been heard. I have used the appropriate channels, followed the chain of command established by the neoliberals who are ‘in charge’ at the present time.
A ‘win’ is about doing the right thing, to say what needs to be said, to write what must be written and to publicize the process and results, even at the expense of…what? What’s the worse that could happen, really? I acknowledge the privilege in those statements, but being a globally connected scholar does have its advantages.
What’s the alternative? Stay in my comfort zone? Not look my son in the eye because I have sold my soul for…a job? Material things? Two bedrooms, a study and a garden?
A ‘win’ is about being able to sleep soundly at night because I have done nothing wrong. Ultimately, the law is on my side and will be used to prove any case I feel I need to pursue.
And while I understand that some must ‘do what they need to do’, that is not my choice.
I stand for social justice for all, not the favored few. I am not a ‘Yes” woman; I am not an object that comes with a price tag, willing, or even able, to be bought by the highest bidder. No one has the ability to buy me. No one can afford it, not even the richest person (in money) in the world, Bill Gates.
I will never be a ‘donna d’onore’.
My purpose is clear: I am passionate about improving students’ life chances through effective education leadership and high quality, optimistic learning environments around the globe.
I follow this purpose in all aspects of my life. Improving students’ life chances doesn’t happen through wheeling and dealing by unethical so called practitioners; it often cannot be counted in citations or articles published or grants received, or whatever nonsensical 20th century yardstick the neoliberals measure us by.
“Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.”~MLK, Jr
I’m shocked that far too many scholars are silent about what matters most — improving the lives of students (rather than ourselves). I do understand; I am not blind (yet!) and do understand that money makes the world go ’round. But just because that’s the way it is, does not mean it is the right way.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”~MLK, Jr
I am also aware that publishing this very post is likely to be perceived as giving some people ammunition. Ammunition for what, I am not sure, as I cannot sink myself into the depravity of their minds and souls, but rest assured, they are there (hi).
I am also aware that publishing this very post is likely to give courage to a few, to let their voices, no matter how trembling, be heard; to raise their hand, no matter how quivering, and object to the blatant and not so blatant bullying and gaslighting tactics that are so common in the business world, especially for women; to speak truth to power; to know that when we speak truth to power, we are NOT trying to make life difficult for anyone, we are simply demonstrating integrity; to help simpletons understand that, especially in institutes of purported higher education, debate is healthy and lends itself to organizational improvement and provides a better culture in which to work positively and productively.
During my time studying for my PhD in Education Policy, Planning and Leadership at the College of William & Mary, I had the pleasure of being mentored by some of the most prolific scholars in education leadership, who ‘walked the talk’, who stood up for those being marginalized, who worked to make a difference in the lives of students (university and PK-12…all at the same time), and who still more than managed to have the ‘outputs’ that are the darlings of university administrators and rankings fiends. The mentor/scholars encouraged healthy debate about the issues; it never turned ugly, and most importantly, it never turned personal. Because it wasn’t personal, it was always about social justice, about doing what is right, about advocating with those who were being marginalized, about providing a structure and resources so that we learned how to advocate for ourselves and others, too.
Some may criticize me for my beliefs. To those people, I say that I am glad that you can open your mouth and criticize me, but know that it is a two way street. However, I will not criticize you as a person, I will critique your behavior and your actions, which are manifestations of your belief system and personal ethics.
Because I have learned in my 39 years, that someone will always be an outspoken critic.
“And as for the critics, tell me I don’t get it
Everybody can tell you how to do it, they never did it.” ~Jay Z in Already Home
And no one can critique me as well or as harshly as myself.
I know life is difficult; I know life is unfair. I have learned these lessons the hard way, very early on. Just because I’ve learned the lessons and know that the path of integrity, ethics, passion and commitment is fraught with danger, doesn’t mean that I should avoid the road. If you want to, that’s your choice.
But I choose love. I choose to work to change the status quo. Because I know as difficult as my early years were, others have it far, far worse. I also know that still others had it far, far better. They did not witness the violence and drug abuse; they did not experience the mental, physical and sexual abuse; they did not experience the hunger and humiliation, over and over.
Just because that’s the way it was for me, does not mean it was right.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”~MLK, Jr.
At the end of the day, people across the world know what works to help all who are marginalized and hurting. Society as a whole is not courageous enough to do what must be done. That is why it is up to us, as individuals, to do the work that must be done. We must find each other and work together to create global solutions to global problems to create change.
“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” ~MLK, Jr.