letter to the editor

A recent Op Ed by the Colorado Springs Gazette is titled “Trust the mama bears to improve public schools,” (October 28, 2021)  and claims that women running for local school boards are now awake at the helm to save their children from “Big Education”. This may be true, but only if the bear is white and the cubs have not a speck of color in their downy fur.

The hypocritical flavor of the season lies baked into these school board races. Candidates who perceive that the “Big Education” system is suddenly threatened by Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Theory have arisen from a long winter and are barring their claws. The irony is that “Big Education” works very well for their children for years, decades, (centuries!) It’s designed to work for these kids. Who “Big Education” fails are all of the other kids. You know, those kids whose families have been asking for a change to the system for years, decades (centuries?).  The kids whose parents work lots of jobs, who can’t afford child-care, who are profiled based on their skin color or gender non-conformity the minute they walk through the doors of any school. These kids. These are the kids and families who need to be calling out “Big Education”, and these are the kids for whom the “mama bears”, if they had any ounce of empathy or hint of a moral compass,  should be advocating. Aurora school board candidate Anne Keke understands this when she states, "I am running on the policy of help, advocacy, navigation; education for a group of people that have been shut out."

I agree that teacher’s unions and political agendas are a threat to kids, but not the kids the women running for school boards are worried about. “Big Education” produces Big Inequities, something that Colorado Springs School District 11 is calling out for the first time in its history. What could be the result of diving into data that highlights teacher bias and educational system practices that marginalize any student who doesn’t fit into a nice box of high achieving academics or award-winning athletics? Will our approach to education change to include trauma-informed instruction, culturally responsive teaching strategies, and Restorative Practices? I hope so. Are these approaches a threat to the middle and upper class white cubs? I think not. When has building empathy in children ever impeeded achievement?

Any teacher (or parent) can attest that the loudest child receives the most attention. Right now, the loudest in the room are these “mama bears”, worried that. . .what? That wearing masks and meeting the needs of all students (not just theirs) is going to derail their precious cubs from getting into college or earning a white-collar salary?

A 20 year career teaching in public schools provides me with an untold number of qualitative data--street data, if you will--that the damage Big Education ensues on kids who exist on any margin is alive and well. Thriving, even. But not the kids who have suddenly risen to the top of everyone’s (read: the media and those bears) worry list. Those kids, Big Education loves. School board candidates are right to wake up from a deep hibernation and ask questions that rattle the status quo, but only if they choose to focus on the deeply rooted systems that keep inequity blooming.

Rosanna Czarnecki

Manitou Springs

Editor's note: Letters to the editor have not been fact-checked nor edited.