…I Have a Dream…
It is a momentous time for our nation. It is a time of change yet also an opportunity both to remember the sage legacy of our wisest leaders as well as to affirm our own personal and professional values.
As our nation remembers the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we reflect about the principles he espoused, lived and stood-for. He led as he sought change. Among Dr. King’s most well-known oratories was his declaration in August 1963, on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, that “I have a dream.” He dreamt then, as many of us still dream today, for racial justice and equality.
Dr. King also has said that, “…The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy…”
Like Dr. King, I also have a dream. My dream too remains an aspiration for racial justice as we also seek, affirmatively and assertively during these times of challenge and controversy a dream for social justice. A dream when ALL children will have access to a quality education free of discrimination and bathed in equity. As Horace Mann taught us more than a century ago, education is the great equalizer. My dream and my vision, like Mann, is clear and focused on the critical importance of education as the tool for social justice.
Our College of Education and Human Development has identified five core values that epitomize our collective aspirations. We seek, as a core value of our community, social justice as we also value collaboration, ethical leadership, innovation and research-based practice. Our values are an expression of who we are and what we seek – they are guiding principles for all that we do.
It is a critical moment in time for our nation, as the very essence of our democratic society is challenged by the political and ideological divisions among us that so characterized the recent election. As educators and scholars engaged in the field of educator preparation we shelter a very special responsibility. Our responsibility is to maintain fidelity to and with our core values as we promote equity, diversity and inclusion while we respect and honor difference. These values are fully coherent with the credo of George Mason University that honors “freedom and learning.”
As the nation prepared for a new administration, nearly 200 Deans of colleges and schools of education, including me and many of my closest colleagues, gave voice to my dream. We have come together as a collective to promote and advocate for principles that, in our view, must guide the new administration’s policies and practices.
These principles, embodied in our beliefs, are:
- We believe public education is a basic human right and an essential cornerstone of a democratic society.
- We believe in the importance of taking action to resist policies and practices of discrimination and exclusion.
- We believe in protecting and advocating for the well-being and dignity of all children, families, and communities.
- We believe that the structures of poverty and inequality, which have a profound impact on educational attainment, must be dismantled.
- We believe schools and colleges of education have a moral responsibility to listen to and learn from communities that have not been well-served by public education.
- We believe that this national network of deans and other educators will influence, inform, and challenge policies, reform proposals, public debates, and social movements.
As change represented by a new administration is navigated by our nation, I am reminded of the words of our most recent President, Barack Obama, who famously repeatedly had said, “…yes we can.” I say, as many others have before me, not only “yes we can” more importantly than ever “yes we will.”
Join with me as together we re-commit to the covenant of responsibility we share as educators and leaders to be true to our core values, be responsible advocates and seek social justice through fair, equitable and evidence-based policies that will guide our practices.
Mark R. Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor
College of Education and Human Development
George Mason University