Crying Stories

**This week I am attending the International Symposium on
Educational Reform hosted by the University of Jyväskylä
in Finland.**

Yesterday I got a dose of
inspiration unlike any that I have had in some time. It came from two graduate
students at the University of Jyväskylä, both from China. The first was a young
lady from Shanghai in her first year of doctoral study. Her presentation was on social justice reform in the Chinese education system. She highlighted
specific areas of injustice and inequity in Chinese education, including the
gross inequities in the quality of education available to the Chinese people
based on the region of the country they live in. These inequities, she argued,
have come more into public discussion as a result of Chinese migrant workers moving
east to cities like Shanghai in order to find work. In many instances, however,
these workers have found that their children are not permitted to attend
schools in the cities past the nine years of compulsory education. In order to
go further, Chinese law requires that these families return to western China
where their homes are registered; also where the quality of education is much
poorer and where there are fewer jobs. The second student fully supported the
findings of the presentation, and added that in West China (his home) there
were many “crying stories”; stories of pain, strife, and sorrowful conditions for
children and their families.

I believe what these two students
are doing takes an incredible amount of courage. The questions they are asking,
the norms they are challenging, and the positions they are taking have historically
not been received warmly in China. But both of these students are motivated and
even driven by the dire conditions that so many children and families in their
homeland face. These students inspire me.

As I think about my own life and
career, I have collected more than my fair share of crying stories as well. I
am not speaking of nearly the same conditions that my Chinese friends are
acquainted with, but all the same, I am well-acquainted with the conditions in
American society that limit the life possibilities of children based on their
zip code, family background, race/ethnicity, gender, etc. My prayer is that the
crying stories that I have collected and continue to collect right here in the
USA will forever haunt me and drive me to be the agent for change in our
education system that I am called to be.

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