Thursday, April 28, 2011

Commitment to build

Rachel Maddow understands great work worth doing:

Of course, she's also exactly on my wavelength about doing big things.  Here's how Bob Sexton and I wrote about the issue a few years ago:
A truly permanent system requires a wide array of adults who embody a muscular determination to deliver for all children. Outside of court, in the political effort to build the schools all children deserve, the definition of success should go beyond equal and adequate education for students in school today, to include creating a resilient culture of commitment.
This notion involves ideas closely related to the Brown emphasis on equality, but it adds a “Greatest Generation” emphasis on mighty achievements. To highlight the distinctive emphasis, we want to offer both imagery and words.
Visually, the commitment to educational opportunity for every child naturally summons up Norman Rockwell’s wrenching painting for “The Problem We All Live With,” showing a tiny Ruby Bridges walking to school escorted by four determined federal officials. We suggest that long-term success should summon up a few other Rockwell images. Think of his “Rosie the Riveter”, showing a young woman ready to put on coveralls, learn factory skills, and do what it takes to win a mighty war. Or think of his painting of “The Runaway,” dominated by the rather large back of a policeman who is making sure the kid in question has an ice cream soda before ensuring that he ends up at home before dark. Rosie and that policeman are Americans who mean to do what it takes. In talking about adequate schools in the political arena, it is essential to enlist millions like them. It is crucial that they see that a mighty project before them, worthy of their effort and investment, reflecting the values they most want to serve well as adults.l
Verbally, addressing a muscular commitment includes references to building, creating, nurturing, planting, and harvesting. It involves persistent language of shared effort: “our children,” “our schools,” “our state,” and “our future.” It requires a sense that mighty accomplishment is in within reach and worth the effort. It echoes President Kennedy asking what you can do for your country, or Dr. King expecting a great nation to rise up. It summons the sense of new energy and possibility that President Reagan summoned up for so many around him. It suggests that people who built Hoover Dam, defeated the Nazis, ended polio, and landed on the moon can certainly establish schools that deliver for every child.
Of course, this definition is not just about rhetoric. It is also about institutions and coalitions that can sustain stronger schools over generations.

That's from our 2009 paper, "Substantial and Yet Not Sufficient," written for the Education, Equity, and Law series.

Occasionally, when talking about infrastructure, Maddow will chant "wonk-a-chick-a, wonk-a-chick-a" for a while.  She's on my wavelength then, too.

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