“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream.
More of the same cannot be the only option for our students and educators. I propose we focus on College and Workforce Preparedness for students; 21st Century Education Innovation for teachers, and A New Education Direction for all of North Carolina.
Many different challenges face us, but let’s acknowledge the truth that our public education system needs to be transformed. Every day we do not, more teachers will quit and more students will be lost.” – Mark Johnson, September 7, 2016 in EdNC.org.
That quote ends Mark Johnson’s op-ed piece in EdNC.org as he was campaigning to be the state superintendent for the state of North Carolina (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).
Ironic that it was published almost one-year ago to the day of the recent decision by President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) that protects those we ubiquitously call “Dreamers.”
That act established by the Obama administration protects some of our very students in North Carolina schools. What Trump and Sessions did today is wickedly targeting students who in more than one way truly represent what Johnson calls the “American Dream.”
“Dream” is an interesting word considering that the above quote by Johnson is from an op-ed entitled “Our American dream.” It’s even more ironic that in a recent video message Johnson sent to teachers to help “open” the new school year, the American Dream was again referred to (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/08/25/welcome-back-to-school-2017-2018-mark-johnsons-empty-video-address/).
And a little under two weeks ago, we marked the anniversary of what might be the most iconic speech ever given on American soil: “I Have a Dream” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So when Mark Johnson said, “No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream,” did he mean that for the actual “dreamers” in our schools?
Those students who literally are here because their parents held on to an idea that the American Dream was as real and palpable as anything ever created?
Those students who hold on to the opportunity to learn and be a part of an “immigrant” nation tighter than anyone else?
Those students who would move heaven and earth to just get the opportunity to succeed (and the pun on the word “opportunity” is not lost on those who favor NC’s form of vouchers)?
For a man who has been extended untold power by a General Assembly for a state superintendent, who has used the idea of an “American Dream” as a political mantra this past year, and who supposedly leads the public schools that despite budget cuts are lovingly educating these “dreamers,” what is he willing to say to this?
“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible” (from a memo concerning DACA – http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/05/politics/white-house-memo-daca-recipients-leave/index.html).
As a leader, it is up to Mark Johnson to not only revisit his words from a year ago, but also act on them because actions speak louder than words.
And when actions are used to back up words, it speaks even louder.
Yet the lack of a statement or the lack of reaffirmation for many of our students who are “dreamers” screams the loudest.
For a man who wanted to be a public servant for all students in North Carolina, it’s time to start serving and stand up for all of our students.