I picked up the school reform issue of The Nation. While I was not too inspired by any of the articles it contained, this book caught me eye, and I’m glad it did. Vilson is a voice – and I use that word deliberately – that we in the teaching profession need. He’s the first one that helped me make sense of education related blogging. His positive spirit is both inspiring and infectious. He is determined to teach “fearlessly.” He does not want us, as teachers, to wait to be asked for our input. Or, as he puts it, “[i]nstead of waiting for someone to hand the mic to us, let’s take it” (176). This notion of teacher voice, he contends, requires “three cogent pieces: a balance between emotion and reason; expert confidence; and a specific audience in mind” (178). He has the familiar criticisms of NCLB and Race to the Top, but it’s his constant attention to the needs of his students – even as he becomes a teacher leader – that prevails. And it’s his nuanced and developing understanding of the relationship among race, class, and education that’s inspiring.
And by the way, Vilson can write. I’m not just talking about his powerful poetry (seek out his performance at the Save Our Schools march), but also his prose. His meditation on behalf Ruben Redman as well as his “Note from a Native Son” are remarkable. And then there are sentences like these (trust me, it makes perfect sense in context): “Three-fifths for any man of color in this country would break his constitution” (77). Boom!
Here’s to the new generation.