It’s exciting to have a Congress that is more representative of our communities than ever before. Each of these extraordinary new members of congress had successes navigating our educational system. And I imagine each can name at least one teacher who not only believed in them but had skills and tools to support them breaking through an educational system not designed to serve them fully, or at all. Imagine what our Congress – and our businesses and universities and hospitals and other places of service and community and innovation – will do and be when they are fully representative of all of us. Imagine how strong and creative and collaborative our country will be.
Our changing Congress is one piece to achieving this vision. It is exciting to think about Latina, Muslim, Black, gay, and female-identified young people looking at our federal government and now seeing at least one person that looks or identifies like them. But it’s not enough. We need to ensure that the opportunities for these young people to reach Congress and other futures are clear and varied, and this begins with pathways through school.
People ask me a lot why I “want everyone to be a mathematician or a biologist.” I don’t. I believe we need carpenters and journalists and social servants as much as we need scientists and engineers. Frankly, I believe people should be what they want to be. But the reality is that middle and high school math and science courses sort our young people by zip code and race, determining who graduates and what happens next. School ensures young people know whether or not they actually have choices. So it’s not about getting all students into STEM majors and careers; it’s about making sure all students truly have pathways to do whatever they want to do. Some will choose STEM, some will choose politics, some will choose something else. But all must have choices.
What would happen if all young people had experiences in school that celebrated their intersectionalities and aspirations, and that guaranteed them the kind of sustained, rigorous, and supported education that is the truest civil right? What would happen if a young person could look at any adult in a position of power or service and know there is a pathway there for them?
We’re going to find out.
With gratitude for you and your commitments to disruption, advocacy, and transforming teaching together,