Wed Feb 8, 2017
There's a classic activist saying that goes "Don't mourn—organize!" It's sometimes attributed to labor leader Mother Jones, but most likely comes from another labor activist, union organizer, songwriter, and Wobbly member Joe Hill. Point is, you hear this a lot, especially after some kind of crushing defeat. Like the confirmation of Betsy DeVos. Or the election of a certain orange fascist. I believe in the core of the sentiment, but also think there's power in the mourning—as long as it doesn't last too long, and as long as it fuels the desire to continue the fight, and not the desire to give up. Mourning an essential process—Americans are not so good at it, tbh. So yes, cry and scream and lose your shit over the confirmation of this utterly unqualified, clueless billionaire who just bought herself a seat at the table. ABSOLUTELY DO THIS. And then let's continue. Commit to fighting for public education, for everything that you hold dear. This is a long, uphill slog and while the immediate odds are NOT in our favor, I do believe that the larger forces of justice + love ARE ever in our favor.
Also, I'm seeing a lot of "well making all those phonecalls against DeVos was a waste of my time" sentiments, and I want to strongly push back against that. I get it, and I truly understand it, but it's short-sighted—the ONLY reason that the confirmation was as close as it was, as dramatic as it was, as widely covered by the media as it was, is precisely because of all the efforts. The only reason we KNOW how shitty she is, and how blatantly she bought her place in the Party, is BECAUSE of the noise everyone has made. Did it stop her confirmation? No. But did it expose more levels of pay-to-play? Did it severely tarnish her reputation? Yup. Did it further highlight the strength of the resistance against the GOP's Cabinet and DT's agenda? Did it make grossly public the spinelessness of Senators who were bought off by DeVos? Yes. Did it strengthen the resolve of those who believe, deeply, in the importance of public education? IT BETTER. Am I being Pollyanna? A little. But if you don't have a longview in times like this, it is very hard to keep up the fight.
SO! #Actions for today are around how you can immediately, right now, regardless of Betsy DeVos, SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION.
1. Go on https://www.donorschoose.org/ today and fund as many projects as you can. Decide in advance how much you feel you can donate —maybe it's $25, maybe it's $100, maybe it's even more. Have a budget in mind, then go in and start giving money directly to teachers and students. Ask your friends and family to match your donations. If your employer does matching donations, talk to them. If you work for an especially progressive company, ask about corporate donations to DonorsChoose.
2. In December, the writer Ashley C Ford tweeted about the idea of people helping pay off school lunch debts, to help families who qualify for reduced lunch fees but can't pay them off. The tweet went viral, and the idea has taken off. Here's how you can do this: Look up the website of your local school district, and find their Food Services department. Call and ask to speak with someone in Accounting (or just talk to whoever answers). Tell them you'd like to make a donation to help pay off school lunch debts. Boom. Just like that.
3. If you're a parent of a child in public schools (or just someone who is concerned about this) commit now to getting involved (or more involved, if you already are) in your district. Get to know your school board members, and the district administration. Check to see if any of them make public statements about DeVos, and act accordingly. What are your state and local teachers unions saying? If your school board members seem excited about her, show up at their offices and challenge this. Or...Run for school board yourself!
4. Reach out to every public school teacher and administrator you know and tell them you see them, you support them, you believe in the value of the work they do, and you will fight for their jobs, their salaries, and the education of every damn kid in this country.