The Colonizers and the Colonized

by Mary Jo Hetzel, member of Citizens for Public Schools, Boston Education Justice Alliance and the Coalition for Equal, Quality Education

I  have been crying lately, and while I know this is not an acceptable thing to do, much less to mention, in our culture of late that prefers to stress the importance of “competence, success,  excellence and achievement”; nevertheless, I find myself crying — and why? — I’ve been asking myself, since it is something I very rarely do. Am I crying for myself or for the world? Both I suppose, since I am part of a world that has been going awry for a very long time and is now coming into the full glory of its contradictions. I’ve been struggling for months to try to wrap my mind and heart around what has been happening at the Dearborn, and what is my role, if any, in supporting the Dearborn School Community, as a member of the broader community, as an activist for education justice and quality, and as a life-long educator.

I haven’t really found a clear and effective role in this situation, but I do want to share with you what has finally come through to me as an image, a perspective, that helps to shed light on the context of what we are experiencing in this time, that the Dearborn take-over by the Boston Plan for Excellence so perfectly symbolizes. What came through to me this morning as I meditated on my state of demoralization was not so much personal matters, but on the striking similarity of the  BPE take-over as an example of the modern day colonizer; who, after the corporations and their state allies have destroyed a country, or region or community, in this case an urban school system & community, and left it devastated, impoverished, broken and demoralized  — then turn to those well-situated to exploit the situation to their own ends in the name of those who have been destroyed. So it is that the BPE will be given a half a million plus yearly to “save” the Dearborn.

So the colonizers identify those corporate/state allied, well-heeled groups and technically expert organizations and pay them handsomely to take over the administration, management and education of the colonized. These are the experts, those who know it all, who will come in and reshape, restructure and rehabilitate those who have been essentially destroyed, their lives torn asunder, their cultures disrespected, their dignity degraded; their jobs, housing, land, resources, communal ties & enterprises swept away, while whatever it is that the colonizers have decided needs to happen will be put into place. These managers & experts will find a few members of the community who are highly skilled, deeply committed, caring and kind, earnest and well meaning to work with them; yet it is still work within the colonizers’ mindset, to rehabilitate the natives to fulfill the goals of the system that has been busy destroying them.

So now you know why I’ve been crying, and I suspect I’m not the only one. I’ll bet that in the dark of the night, more than one parent, teacher, student, staff or community activist has been silently crying or screaming at the endless catch-22’s created by the colonizers and their paid, expert administrators. The whole high stakes testing craze which has brought the Dearborn to its knees, from start to finish, is a tool of the colonizer to humiliate, degrade and destroy the inner strength and power of the colonized to take ownership of their own lives, education and communities, and to blame them for their own destruction. So we salute you, BPE, as you  confidently set out to save our colonized souls, diligently serving a system that is destroying us.