Commentary

NC teacher to state superintendent: If you’re serious about “American Dream,” speak up for DACA kids

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

Veteran Forsyth County schoolteacher and defender of public education Stuart Egan had a fine post yesterday in which he calls out state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson for all of his recent pronouncements about the importance of allowing our students to pursue the “American Dream.” As Egan points out, if Johnson is at all serious about his repeated statements in this area, he must speak out against the Trump administration’s disastrous plan to end the DACA program.

In “Mark Johnson, Those ‘Dreamers’ Are Our Students. Speak Up For Them,” Egan points out that Johnson entitled  an essay he wrote last year while campaigning for Superintendent “Our American Dram” and included this statement:

“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream.”

This is from Egan’s column:

Ironic that it [Johnson’s column] was published almost one-year ago to the day of the recent decision by President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) that protects those we ubiquitously call “Dreamers.”

That act established by the Obama administration protects some of our very students in North Carolina schools. What Trump and Sessions did today is wickedly targeting students who in more than one way truly represent what Johnson calls the “American Dream.”

“Dream” is an interesting word considering that the above quote by Johnson is from an op-ed entitled “Our American dream.” It’s even more ironic that in a recent video message Johnson sent to teachers to help “open” the new school year, the American Dream was again referred to (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/08/25/welcome-back-to-school-2017-2018-mark-johnsons-empty-video-address/).

And a little under two weeks ago, we marked the anniversary of what might be the most iconic speech ever given on American soil: “I Have a Dream” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So when Mark Johnson said, “No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream,” did he mean that for the actual “dreamers” in our schools?

Those students who literally are here because their parents held on to an idea that the American Dream was as real and palpable as anything ever created?

Those students who hold on to the opportunity to learn and be a part of an “immigrant” nation tighter than anyone else?

Those students who would move heaven and earth to just get the opportunity to succeed (and the pun on the word “opportunity” is not lost on those who favor NC’s form of vouchers)?

For a man who has been extended untold power by a General Assembly for a state superintendent, who has used the idea of an “American Dream” as a political mantra this past year, and who supposedly leads the public schools that despite budget cuts are lovingly educating these “dreamers,” what is he willing to say to this?

“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible” (from a memo concerning DACA – http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/05/politics/white-house-memo-daca-recipients-leave/index.html).

As a leader, it is up to Mark Johnson to not only revisit his words from a year ago, but also act on them because actions speak louder than words.

And when actions are used to back up words, it speaks even louder.

Yet the lack of a statement or the lack of reaffirmation for many of our students who are “dreamers” screams the loudest.

For a man who wanted to be a public servant for all students in North Carolina, it’s time to start serving and stand up for all of our students.

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