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Thought Leadership Guardians of Atlanta’s Future

Back to School: Through a Different Lens

Sheltering Arms

By Blythe Keeler Robinson, President and CEO, Sheltering Arms

“Education either functions as an instrument, which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

I can’t believe it is already August, but actually, this has been the longest year ever. I think March alone had 76 days. By most accounts, 2020 has been a less than ideal year with one tragedy after another. The world was struck with a pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on all of humanity and its institutions. In addition to the loss of courageous civil rights leaders like Rev. C.T. Vivian and Rep. John Lewis, we all watched in horror as a police officer murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. By no means was George Floyd’s murder the only atrocity committed against Black people this year. In fact, within a two-month time period, there were a number of brutal attacks on Black men and women that moved the vast majority of decent Americans to protest against institutional racism in America.

It is against this backdrop that we find ourselves in a new school year having to maintain health and sanity. Although 2020 seems like some sort of punishment, I’m adopting the viewpoint that 2020 was really the universe’s way of pushing the reset button. I shared the quote from “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” because it perfectly frames the opportunity in front of us. 

Educators and families have the opportunity to redesign and rethink education. The quote can serve as a guiding principle that grounds our collective work in reimagining education and interrogating our educational systems through an equity lens and more importantly, an anti-racist lens. If we succeed, we have an opportunity to realize education as a practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world, and if 2020 proves nothing else, we desperately need to transform our world.

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