This NPE conference ended with a keynote from Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP. Given the history of civil rights organizations supporting high-stakes testing and other school privatization efforts, it was refreshing to hear the president of the NAACP denounce privatization, charters, and high-stakes standardized testing. One comment that Mr. Johnson repeated as a salient part of his remarks was that we must “put children in the center.” He advocated that the work we do must put the needs of children in the center. He urged us to put children in the center and march forward with our allies by asking “are we training and preparing our children for a bright, prosperous future?” His comments resonated with me because I believe we must do all we can to protect childhood. And we must work together to put children and their education in the center of the work we do.
Many of the workshops at NPE were about putting children in the center. I was able to speak with other early childhood educators and advocates about how we restore justice in the early years and address trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACES). In the DEY workshop, we addressed how the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) infected early childhood education with the proliferation of online preschools. Other speakers addressed many issues about education, teachers, and public schools which all include a need to put children at the center. Whether it is teachers in Puerto Rico fighting to save schools for their students, or teachers in Arizona organizing to improve working conditions that impact children’s learning condition, we all came together because we believe that the fight for equity and justice must place children in the center.
The NPE conference might be the one time a year I see many of my education activist friends who advocate for children and their schools across the country. It is great to be reminded that you are not alone in this fight and that your allies are there to support you and help you heal. It is good to laugh, eat, drink, cry, and organize with people who understand why you do what you do. And most of all, it is important to learn from each other and recharge your spirit as you gear up to continue the fight.