5 Reasons I’m UPSET & Inspired: The Place of Rallies & Emotion in Community Work

It was my privilege today to attend the UPSET (Underfunded Parents, Students, and Educators Together) rally calling for more stable funding and equity in Portland Public Schools.  Please check out a little of the local news coverage:

As I packed up the car with my daughter in tow, I expected the array of messages against more cuts to school funding and to arts programming that we would see at the rally, but I did not anticipate feeling so moved by the hundreds of students, parents, and educators joined together to make a public statement.  Here are some of my thoughts following the rally:

  1. Emotional engagement is an important part of a social movement.  I felt almost choked up as hundreds of students poured into the square with their signs demanding a just educational system.  This reminded me of a student of mine in one of the Capstone classes I teach who was commenting on how volunteering with youth makes him feel good and thinking about whether or not the fact that we feel like better people when doing community work is a bad thing.  No, it’s not a bad thing!  We should feel good when we are supporting our communities and taking a stand either through lifting our voices or working hands on.
  2. While the Mayor has proposed a bail out plan to save 100 teaching jobs for the 2012-2013 schools year and a group of parents and non-profits are banding together to save the Oregon Outdoor School Program, this isn’t enough.  Teachers are negotiating a stalled and reduced raise (among other things) as part of these negotiations, schools are already operating on reduced staff/programming, and this bandaid does nothing to fix the roots of the problem — unstable funding source for our public education system AND a disinvestment in the most needy kids and schools.  A just system would not require additional monetary, time, or resource sacrifices from students, teachers, and parents.
  3.  I saw many parents at this rally with children who are not yet school aged.  This felt important as it is vital that all community members (those with kids in the public school system along with those without kids at all) become involved and speak out agains the unjust system in which so many of our community’s children are educated.
  4. I was able to http://www.facebook.com/v/10151706675670297” target=”_blank”>take my daughter Vera with me, and this was her first political rally.  I remember my mom taking me to anti-war protests from a young age, and her activism certainly has inspired my work today.  With Mother’s Day just a day away, this is a shout out to my mom.  I was happy to follow in her footsteps and to pass on the legacy of social engagement today.  Thanks, mom!
  5. It does feel like there’s momentum, especially from groups like UPSET and Invest in Oregon Schools.  Please consider getting active with one of these groups or with others such as Stand for Children, Save Our Schools, or the like.  Find an organization that fits you and your beliefs, and become active!  It’s much easier to become active with a group than to invent your activism from scratch (although this can be incredibly powerful as well)!
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