Oklahoma Public Education, Ryan Walters, Transformative Justice and the Holy Spirit

Circle up friends who care about education—especially in Oklahoma. I am going to integrate my current context with the social justice books I am reading and my theological education. I hope you enjoy this ride and feel inspired to join me in advocating for education reform.

Oklahoma Public Education has been in big trouble for a long time. We knew this when we moved here. We love Norman Public Schools even though, even here, education needs a lot more attention. Norman is academic-friendly thanks to a major university in town. But overall, it looks really bad for OU and OSU being in a state hell-bent on destroying public schools. Oklahoma is ranked 49th in education and 47th in spending per student.

Unfortunately, public education in Oklahoma is now challenged EVEN MORE now that Ryan Walters has been sworn in as Superintendent of Education. Walters says he is going to get Oklahoma education back on track. MAJOR RED FLAG—THAT IS AUTHORITARIAN LANGUAGE. Never trust a person who says they are going to save the day. Leaders matter, but it is all of us who make the change. Leaders inspire and do the work with the people. (They do not make an emergency trip to Cancun when a state is in crisis—Ted Cruz).

Here is what Ryan Walters says he will be prioritizing:

Walters said he intends to prioritize several areas over the course of his four years in office: “giving parents more say in where their children go to school, eliminating Critical Race Theory in classrooms, banning transgender athletes from competing in sports that do not align with their biological sex, and getting indoctrination out of classrooms.”

You know—nothing that has to do with improving education but IS harming the most marginalized among us.

He said big changes were coming and things were going to change for teachers, but he gave NO specifics. MAJOR RED FLAG. A good leader is specific. Gloria Steinem has a great quote: hate generalizes, love specifies. Keep that in mind when you listen to leaders.

Lest anyone thinks my napping isn’t dreaming about how public education could be, I will have you know that is exactly what I am focusing on. Ryan Walters will not go unchallenged.

I am reading a book called “We Will Not Cancel Us” by adrienne maree brown and she is talking about abolition. But abolition is not about absence, it is about presence. It is about building life-affirming institutions (Ruth Wilson Gilmore) We need to address harm at the root so we can grow into right relationship with each other.

People talk a lot about pastors being burned out and their great resignation, and for good reason, but we need to talk about teachers too. Underpaid, over-burdened, and the system makes teachers fall for the rot in the system. They are closest to the pain—the easiest scapegoats. Also, low spending on students and excessive punishments. She addresses that we need to start addressing our punitive justice that begins at home and in our schools: corporal punishment of kids at home and in schools, suspension, expulsion, juvenile detention, to imprisonment and execution of adults. Black and brown kids are most vulnerable here.

This is a lot to take on because we have been so punitive minded for so long. Dr. Becky at Good Inside, parenting psychologist, is fielding questions from parents who want to know how to parent without punishment but still be respected by their children. This movement to become non-punitive is happening. I want to join, and I am so glad to be in Oklahoma at this time that seems like the worst possible time!

It is no accident my church is across the street from my kid’s school. I will have my vision tangibly in sight every time I go to church.

I am also re-reading ”Dancing Dancing with the Wild Child Evangélicas and The Holy Spirit” from my Baptist Theology class. I love this chapter from their book Latina Evangélicas A Theological Survey from the Margins. I miss school, I tell you. I am still studying on my own!

These Latina authors are reminding me of how wild the Holy Spirit is. She is the one who cannot be possessed and breathes hope to those who have been treated as nobodies. She is the one who speaks tú a tú (face-to-face). She humanizes when systems deal dehumanizing policies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s