What if We… Don’t Return to School as Usual

This originally appeared on April 9, 2020, by Hugh Vasquez, Senior Associate, National Equity Project on Medium.

Let’s start with the end in mind. Fast forward to a time in the near future, say 12 months from now when we have made it through this world health crisis. Imagine that you have been invited to be on a panel at a conference because you decided to do something unusual amidst the crisis. You decided you were going to refuse to return to schooling in the same way you left it when COVID-19 erupted. You decided you would not return to doing business as usual in how we educate children. On this panel, you share why you made this decision, and your remarks focus on a desire to change the system because you realized it was designed to produce inequities. You share what it took to stop doing business as usual and how you became a catalyst for others to join in this effort too. You talk about the innovations you and a team of educators, parents, and students created and what you are learning from taking those actions. Then you share the impact those changes had on students, families, and staff. You close by describing how you used the opportunity of the system shutdown to create a better way of educating children and how you are going to make sure the old system doesn’t return.

Let’s be clear. When the COVID-19 crisis is over, we do not have to go back to business as usual in our educational system, or any other system for that matter. We just don’t. The question confronting us at the moment is not can we prepare to come back differently but will we?

Working in the field of social justice education, we know there are many education leaders from superintendents to policymakers to site leaders to teachers who have come to the realization that our education system is designed to produce what it produces — inequity in who succeeds. We also know that many do not want to continue educating the way education was designed. Many more have realized that what they do day-to-day in schools actually perpetuates the current inequitable system, the very one they would like to interrupt and change. So although we want change, we find ourselves maintaining the status quo. Why?