This article by Tim Hurley appeared in the For Your Consideration section in our March 5, 2014 e-Newsletter and originally appeared in The Charlotte Observer. For Your Consideration provides an open forum for individuals to voice their opinions on various public education issues.
This fall, my wife Susie and I welcomed our first, second and third children to the world – triplets born 12 weeks early, eight pounds between them. Since then, we’ve made three long-awaited trips from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Levine Children’s Hospital through the doorway of our home – first with Sarah Caroline, then with Susannah Grace, then, finally, with Paul – our beloved son against whom the odds were most frighteningly stacked. With each, I had my first, second and third first-hand experience of the fierceness of a parent’s desire to see his children thrive. And as my heart swelled, my conviction deepened. Every day, our city defaults on the promise of an equal public education for thousands of students. Less physically vulnerable than my three, these children face risks no less grave. We must do better. We have no time to waste.
A few generations ago, the very idea of keeping infants like mine alive would have been met with scoffs or sympathetic sighs. It’s not that we didn’t care – we just didn’t think it possible. We had no evidence, no precedent. Today, as the conversation around education escalates, we see this same tendency loom. We want proof before we proceed. We squabble over changes at the margins without addressing the glaring racial and economic inequalities at the heart of our system. We let days pass and generations of children grow up.
Today, as I watch my son sleeping beside his sisters, I’m grateful for the capable hands of every doctor and nurse who cared for us, along with the many professionals that came before – all those who had the courage to think beyond what is to imagine what could be. As I give thanks for the innovations these talented individuals birthed and the culture of excellence and expertise that allowed them do it, I see hope for our educational future and the starting point on which it depends.
With our children’s well-being hanging in the balance, I propose we start with faith – an uncompromising belief that we can and must educate and care for all of Charlotte’s children. My own faith comes from the teachings of Christ – a conviction that all children are created in the image of God and must be treated with dignity and respect. Others find this faith elsewhere – in family, in allegiance to democratic values, in their own spiritual commitments. Wherever we look, we must each find faith.
We need to have faith in our educators – the talented women and men who are our single greatest asset in the struggle for educational equity. We need to demonstrate that faith by building a system that rewards their work, celebrates their craft and sets a high bar for excellence. We need to have faith in the power of cooperation – rejecting old divides and committing to new partnerships to conquer long-standing challenges. Most important, we need to have faith in our kids – certain that, if we give them access to ideas, opportunity and encouragement, they’ll leave us marveling at just how high they fly.
This work will be difficult, painstaking even, and dizzyingly complex. It will come in partial victories and plentiful setbacks. But we have to believe we can succeed. Then, like the doctors and nurses who transformed the prognosis for premature infants – for my infants – we have to use experience from the field, the latest research and a culture of collaboration to get us there.
Together, we can make Charlotte the place every child receives the unconditional love, commitment and outstanding care she needs to thrive. We can make ours a community where teachers feel the warmth of a city’s embrace.
Let’s build a beacon. Let’s have faith.
The views expressed in For Your Consideration are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MeckEd.
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About the Author:
Tim Hurley is the executive director of Teach for America in Charlotte and is a member of Christ Central Church.