Learning to Drive

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 24 2013

Contemporary Civil Rights

I just finished watching Schindler’s List, and found it timely since in the past few weeks I have finally posted my pictures from my time abroad this past summer. I visited Berlin, Germany and Poland with my parents, and set foot onto the tumultuous ground of the Berlin Wall and Auschwitz. Today, while recognizing my complete inability to keep my eyes from pouring over with such a gut-wrenching film, I saw some connections that I’ve heard whispers of before, but never really drew the lines. In the 1930s and 40s, the Civil Rights movement centered in Germany and Poland with the plight of the Jews victimized in the Holocaust. Fast forward twenty years and while the American Civil Rights movement is in full swing, Germany is still struggling to regain rights for its citizens while its capital is cut in half by concrete and razor wire. What physical structures today represent our current civil rights battle? Rundown school houses in dilapidated neighborhoods crisscrossed with train tracks.

Liam Neeson tends to always pull on my “inspire” heart string, and I couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to save 1100 lives without a factory and millions of dollars to hide people from annihilation. But humans have gotten sneakier these past 80 years. Ashes no long rain down on us, walls of concrete and tanks no longer separate us. Instead, we have built a much less physical barrier between the elite and the downtrodden: education. Legally we cannot kill. Legally we cannot imprison. Legally we cannot segregate. But for some reason, legally we can deny an excellent education to children. Legally we can put 30 kids in a classroom with a substitute teacher who has to be switched out every 20 days. Legally we can inflate grades to push kids through the system instead of ensuring their retention of knowledge.

This is a violation of civil rights.

According to the film made 20 years ago, 4,000 Jews currently live in Poland, but there are 6,000 livingĀ descendantsĀ of the 1,100 Jews Oskar Schindler saved. If each of us can change the futures of 100 students, in 50 years that could have impacted 600 people. If we have 200 students in our two years that could impact 1,200 people by 2063. With 300 Memphis CMs, each impacting approximately 200 students (gross estimate), that could impact 360,000 people in 50 years.

If we don’t make a difference, who will?

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