80-Year-Old North Carolina Educator: Why I Am Going to Risk Arrest Today

Barbara Parramore with her daughter, AlterNet Senior Editor Lynn Stuart Parramore.

May 20, 2013

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Today I am participating in a non-violent and peaceful protest called Moral Mondays. I join ministers, students, teachers, and other concerned citizens at the state capitol in Raleigh because I am deeply concerned about the legislation of this session of the North Carolina General Assembly. In my judgment, many laws and pending laws that will guide public policy and practice are not in the public interest, and in many instances, will have a negative effect on the future of our state. Children and youth, who are our future, need schooling and health that fosters the best of citizenship as well as preparation for living and working in our society. I am most concerned about the bills affecting the public schools and opportunities of post-secondary education. Families and women’s health issues also relate to and affect educational opportunities.

I was born in 1932 and am a child of the Great Depression and World War II. My oldest brother went into the army in January 1942 and I knew many older brothers of my friends who did not survive. Part of my DNA is being concerned about family and neighbors and helping each other whenever we could. It was fathers and daughters who kept farms going; indeed, a neighborhood girlfriend and her father were with my dad and me in a field working when someone came along to tell us that the war in the Pacific had ended. My brother was on the Pacific high seas that very day, and he got to come home safely, thank goodness.

Back then, neighbors and citizens knew how to care about each other, which brings me to my concern about what is happening right now to families and communities around the state. The list of bills proposed by one or both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly in spring of 2013 is long. Too many of these proposals appear to be poorly thought out. As a citizen who has never missed the opportunity to vote in local, state and national elections, I now have the feeling that my voice is not being considered. Participating in a protest is my way of letting members of the General Assembly know that there are other voices that they need to hear.

My career in public education began in the fall of 1954, following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which made it unlawful to deny black children the same opportunities as white children in our public schools. For the next 40 years I served as an elementary teacher, middle-school mathematics and science teacher, school counselor, elementary school principal, and as a teacher of future teachers and administrators at North Carolina State University.

Six years as principal of Wiley Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina were a major influence in all that I have accomplished. Calvin H. Wiley, for whom the school was named, was the first state superintendent of schools. He convinced the governor not to divert school funds to the Civil War effort, among other important achievements. At Wiley School I learned firsthand how effective teachers are and the extent to which they go beyond their duties to not only teach, but to establish a climate for learning that makes a difference in their students’ lives. Not only were the three Rs essential but also music and art. We considered our school a “workshop for learning.”

Inequalities in education have always been in the forefront of my work. In the early years in public schools, there were two important changes underway: the desegregation of schools and the special education movement. Change comes slowly; for example, Wiley and another Raleigh school (Murphey) had the very first teachers in special education in the state. My teacher’s salary for that first year was provided by the Woman’s Club of Raleigh because there were no funds available. The next year, local school supplement funds were used to pay the teacher, and eventually the state began funding special education instructors. When I was principal, the teachers and I spent weeks prior to the first day of school working out transportation for students coming from all across the city.

This article originally appeared on : AlterNet