Harriet Didn’t Free Blacks for Our Children to Be Failed in Schools!

As EdLanta continues to focus in on National Family Engagement Month through our advocacy for better educational outcomes for Black children. Please read this op-ed, “With Public Education, We Must Stop Placing Blame and Look in the Mirror!”, written by Kamaria Finch, founder of Harriet Tubman Charter School in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Our nation is ablaze with political debates surrounding education, charter schools and failing public schools. I read about thousands of schools failing nationwide & and all I can think is: our children are not “failing”, we have failed our children.

Oftentimes during debates, I’ll ask panelist to share who’s actually consistently volunteering at a local school. In most cases, the answer from many is a resounding ‘no’. But one person, volunteering once a week with one child, could actually move mountains.

Some people point fingers and place blame when it comes to why our educational systems are struggling. Typically starting with teachers, then the school system, then government, and ultimately back to our parents. And now, charter schools. But never ourselves.

We can fail to admit how quickly self-interest, busy schedules, and political affiliations can dissipate our compassion for children. Malcolm X said it best; “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” We must refuse to let politics, even our own, be a detriment to our children’s future.

We should care less if a school is a charter or traditional school, as long as it’s providing an excellent educational option for our children. Throughout my career, I’ve been a devoted teacher supporting and uplifting underfunded, underserved, and underperforming schools.

If a school could help a child be given a better educational option, not one parent would care what ‘type’ of school it was. Furthermore, if anyone is willing to close a high performing community school in a ‘school desert’ simply because it’s a charter school, it would be clear that they’re putting politics before children and parents.

Far too often our children’s education is caught in a politicized adult society, currently struggling with its moral identity while at the same time desperately trying to achieve ‘The American Dream’ by ‘any means necessary’.

We can blame racism here, but classism needs to also be part of the conversation. With the awareness being elevated around education by organizations like BOOK, Better Outcomes for OUR Kids, we now know that black and brown children living in underserved communities, can achieve and excel academically.

There are many studies that have proven, that a child can be extremely intelligent and still be unable to read. There is a difference between being intelligent and educated. Einstein, who was considered a scientific genius, was placed in special education classes during his childhood. He would often share that; “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will believe its whole life that it is stupid.” What he made clear was that a world class education can properly nurture a child’s inner genius. There far too many examples of high performing charter schools serving this demographic. And we should try to learn from these schools and incorporate their successful strategies.

Nelson Mandela stated; “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” So what we must conclude, if our children are excelling at these high performing schools, then why are there still failing schools?

And, who is truly failing them? I now must conclude that we are!


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