The Status Quo is No Longer Welcome

Contributed by Memphian and former NBA player, Elliot Perry.

In some ways, we have allowed our education system to sink to a bottomless pit of status quo primarily at the expense of the underserved. As a result, too many children – most in fact, have not been able to inhale the fresh air of the best schools or allow their mental buckets to sink deep into the wells of knowledge.

Over the past 50 years (and maybe longer), we have allowed our education system to persist in mediocrity.

Why you ask? Because, we have been afraid to address the single most important asset to our students: teachers.

For years we have been in retreat, but I tell you it’s only through confrontation that we demand the best and most effective teachers in every classroom, and the best leaders in every school and not just a few. Then, and only then, will we be able to hold our students to those same standards of excellence. To convince them that education is not abstract, but indeed figurative; that it is not Intangible, but tangible; and that it is the vehicle that allows us all not just to create a better life for ourselves, but reinforce that such knowledge will be worth more than any other qualification they’ll ever earn.

Sure, we have some great teachers in our classrooms, but some is not enough because the viability of our nation’s student population is at stake. We have to be willing to discover new ground, even at the risk of some disappointment. Meaningful change never happened as a result of fear or complacency; it happened, because a new generation of leadership chose to create a new path and till through unfertile soil in an attempt to yield new crops.

MCS leadership has demonstrated tremendous fortitude to cover that new ground through its new Teacher Effectiveness Initiative ( TEI ). And it has made clear that this work cannot be done alone by embracing other reform-minded organizations such as Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, and The New Teacher Project. Thanks to the Gates Foundation and numerous local foundations, the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative will allow Dr. Cash and his staff to not only look at but do something about evaluating teachers to ensure that every classroom is led by an effective teacher in order to graduate every student and send them to college and/or be workforce ready.

My hope is that this ground breaking initiative and national partnership leads to ground breaking participation and support from our community. This should sound the alarm that the time is now and we should rise up as the new Freedom Fighters to ensure this echoes across our community as affirmation that we cannot afford to sit back and wait on time to solve this problem.

Dr. King was right when he said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, too late. There is an invisible book that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.”

So with that let us embrace and celebrate the great strides MCS is making in this area and hope that the hard work of teachers yields enormous dividends for our students, that they see the Importance of their own education and sink their mental buckets deep into the wells of knowledge.