On September 11, 2001 I was at a retreat with ten educational leaders in a conference room one block from the White House. We were discussing the future of teacher preparation in urban research universities and their partnering school districts. We were thinking revolutionary thoughts about a new vision for public K12 education and their relationships with their own communities and nearby public universities. In the middle of some very innovative thinking, we were told to evacuate the conference center immediately and find a safe place to hide and wait. Thus, began a 9.11 saga like so many others on that day of infamy.
Each year that group of leaders — now known as Friends Forever — reconvenes for a virtual conversation via email about then and now. Here is the start of the email thread of our 2020 “conversation” started by Jim Kohlmoos…
Dear 9.11 Friends Forever,
This has been the longest year ever! And probably the most traumatic. Even more than the year of our first meeting, 2020 has stoked unimaginable society-changing tragedy and disruption. Not one but five pandemics — COVID, systemic racism, economic collapse, political extremism, climate change — have converged into a perfect storm of existential crises. Urggghhh! It has been a daily challenge to channel the anger and concern in some sort of more productive direction. It’s been a tough search for hints of hope on the horizon.
The new normal that we can and should create from the ashes of the pandemics beckons a more just, civil, healthy, loving, and equitable world. And, quite honestly, I see education playing a major role in the reconstruction. But education itself requires a redefinition —- of schooling, of what is taught and of how, when, where and by whom it is learned. We actually were dabbling in some of these revolutionary questions on that day 19 years ago and now we return to them under different circumstances and with an even greater sense of urgency and demand.
This is all to say that, amidst all the trauma and disruption surrounding us, I am doing OK. My work as a consultant in education seems all the more vital and important. My life as a friend, husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother and uncle spins with love and affection. And my responsibility as a citizen in a democratic society, while deeply troubled by the current predicament, has been inspired to take action by visions of better times ahead (i.e Build Back Better!).
And I hope all of you are doing OK too. I look forward to hearing from you just 19 years after we became friends forever!