This morning, during my pre-dawn drive from Lowell back down to New London, I caught myself grinning ear to ear a few times, and even have to admit to a couple fist pumps that would've elicited some strange looks from fellow motorists (had there been any).
Not because I went three-for-three on Massachusetts ballot initiatives (the marijuana initiative will be my next entry's subject), but because of words I kept hearing over and over on NPR:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
No one in America is more qualified to say that right now than is President-elect Obama.
It means a lot to me personally, because I love this country, and -- as anyone who has read this blog or spoken to me in the past several months knows -- I cringed every time I heard someone say Obama would not win because either a) "they" wouldn't allow it, or b) the country isn't ready yet. Every time I heard one of those comments, I took it personally, in the way anyone would when they feel they've been judged wrongly by someone who didn't really understand their character, but was impugning it. One comment assumes a conspiratorial elite standing in the way of real progress for many, while the other mis-attributes the feelings of a very small few to a great many (while exempting the speaker, of course)
Even though I never actually went on to become a *real* teacher after the year I spent in Ed School, my time there definitely made an indelible impression on me. It led me to switch my voter registration from "Democrat" to "Independent" and it woke me up to some painful truths about the Far Left in America. It made me fearful for the future to hear supposedly *progressive* people say, in not so many words, that the kids from Newton and Brookline are responsible for their actions and expected to perform at high levels, while the kids from Mattapan and East Boston are not. Essentially, their message was this: because the latter are victims of a system run by a small coterie of white males conspiring to keep them from achieving anything meaningful, they might as well just not try. The irony, of course, is that by propagating that mentality, they were ensuring that their own kids will inherit the material and educational success they've achieved, while ensuring that the *others* don't threaten to take their piece of the pie. I could rattle off a ton of examples of actual quotes that I jotted down while there, but I'll spare you the pain -- suffice to say, I honestly believe that the Far Left in this country is just as divisive, intolerant, and hateful as the more-often villified Far Right.
The election of President-elect Obama sends a stronger message to hate-mongers from the Far Left and the Far Right than any speech, documentary, essay, or book ever could. It should force schoolkids to do a double- or triple-take before swallowing any of the propaganda from the Educracy about why a test that asks you to solve for x is a systemized tool of oppression (and that, by implication they should just give up).*
This country is far from perfect, but it's a wide-open place that's growing increasingly diverse and accepting by the day. As I've certainly noted before in these entries, no other nation has the same history of providing refuge and welcoming those who have left other lands to find something better (just ask the Governor of our most-populous state, or any of the 25,000 residents of our city whose family members escaped one of the 20th century's worst genocides in the late 1970s).
If you don't *get* that, well, then, you don't get it.
* As evidence, check out the work that Pscyhologist Claude Steele did concerning "stereotype threat" and the way students under-perform after being told of biases written into tests.