This Halloween, I will be making an appearance as my alter ego, the Social Justice Fairy; I understand this statement is shocking for the people who have heard me express my deep dislike (okay, hatred) for Halloween and for dressing up. Yes, I can hear the exclamations of shock, skepticism, and in some cases dismay. And, yes, I am the person who recently wrote about her hesitance to wear earrings because of the unwanted attention they may bring my way. I figured it is about time to break out the costume (I am going all out, you won't want to miss this), after avoiding all things Halloween for 38 years (for those of you doing the math, I last wore a costume as a 6th grader). I am pretty excited about transforming into the Social Justice Fairy for one evening, to be perfectly honest. This old world is in need of some fairy dust, magic incantations, and some serious wand waving.
All fun aside, social justice is a topic that requires us all to think deeply about our own circumstances and those around us. Most of you have the good fortune to have all of your basic needs met: food, clothing, and shelter, check, check, and check. Many people around us do not have even those essentials. They have to decide whether they will pay their rent or buy food with their minimum wage paycheck. These folks don't appear outright homeless, but looks can be deceiving. They may be one mishap away from losing their home and one non-budgeted expense away from eating Ramen noodles for the remainder of the month. We all know the statistics, but it is so easy to blame the victims. If only they worked harder, if only they didn't spend money on “luxuries,” if only...
In my mind, the debate always turns to education. Our system has failed over and over again, because we put everyone on the same track. This conversation has become a group of clichés: fitting square pegs into round holes and one size doesn't fit all. At what point do we go beyond the platitudes, realize there are thousands of kids who are going to end up on the bottom of the economic heap if we don't do something today?
What does that something look like, you ask? How can we solve a problem that people have been trying to fix for a while? Can public education be part of the solution?
I (even as the Social Justice Fairy) obviously don't have all the answers, but the most basic, simple ideas are usually the best solutions for even the biggest problems.
Equality, the backbone of social justice, is often derided and misunderstood. I would like to clear up some misconceptions:equality does not mean we are all identical; however, it does means we are all given the same opportunity to make decisions and choices that influence our lives.
To go back to the philosophy that guides my life, let's put education back into the hands of the students. Let’s empower our kids to make the choices that will affect them. When kids are in the driver’s seat of their own education, they will have the opportunity to make decisions that will influence the direction of their lives.
No, this does not mean we put them out there without a rudder. Adults and teachers become their mentors and guides; education becomes a conversation instead of a lecture.
When all this happens, youth will be self-motivated, self-directed, and self aware. They will be able to take their place at the table because they have the knowledge and understanding of how important and powerful one voice can be.
Now back to my one concern about this whole costume thing... how long will my hair stay hot pink?