A Statement from the Board of Directors
Dear PEN Educators:
Less than one year ago we gathered in Minneapolis for the Progressive Education Network’s biennial national conference, “Educating for Democracy: Navigating the Current and Channeling the Future of Progressive Education.” Several weeks ago on those same streets, George Floyd was murdered by police officers after eight minutes, forty-six seconds of ritual abuse emblematic of four hundred and one years of our history. As we speak, protesters’ calls to action hang in the air outside the conference spaces you traveled; one of our site visit schools, Gordon Parks Academy, stands damaged from the uprising that ensued.
A movement born in recent years of the centuries-long fight against racism and anti-Blackness, catalyzed primarily by the leadership of Black women, has become part of our national consciousness. A torrent of statements has been produced by public officials, corporations, and educational institutions affirming unapologetically that Black Lives Matter & declaring commitments to advancing the pursuit of racial equity and justice within their institutions. How long this commitment will last, and how deeply it will transform those institutions, we do not and cannot know. This transformative work requires continuously vigilant commitment over time. Charges do not always lead to convictions; words do not always lead to actions; rhetoric does not often become reality.
Thus we stand in skepticism with those who’ve witnessed flurries of such ‘position statements’ in the past to have been followed, almost inevitably, by inaction. We stand in skepticism with Cornel West, who recently affirmed that “We don’t need lukewarm folk. We don’t need summer soldiers. We need all-season love warriors.”
The Progressive Education Network’s vision has, for some years now, been underpinned by a commitment to “promote a vision of progressive education for the 21st century that engages students as active participants in their learning and in society,” “advance critical dialogue on the roles of schools in a democratic society,” and “promote diversity, equity, and justice in our schools and society.” You have worked hard, with us, to determine what the enactment and expression of these commitments might look like in our schools in the years to come. As a board, we have tried to center this work in recent years by reframing our vision, mission, and principles to foreground our commitments to equity and justice; ensuring diverse representation in our board composition, and explicitly focusing on these commitments in our biennial conferences, NIPEN Institute, and publications. We will continue to do so in a spirit of solidary and radical hope.
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