Kentucky's motto adopted 6 months after our founding is my favorite motto amongst the states (yes, I reviewed them all ... also good, Rhode Island & Virginia). These meaningful mottos make for poor state flags, but are good words to live by generally. And in Kentucky, the motto and my experience of a decade of the Commonwealth are tightly fit together. From my experience, Kentucky as a state is the most unified state internally and perhaps the most unifying of all the 50 states, living as it does between north and south, and so many other divisions, trying throughout our history to bring the distinct parts of America together.
Kentucky, though, finds itself right now out-of-step with our motto. As I write this, thousands of teachers are marching on the capitol. Name-calling on all sides has been rampant. And, worst, we have stopped listening to each other.
Such moments will exist in the course of human events. Marches have proven to be quite useful and progressive tools over time. Perhaps this is one of those times. I'm proud of the teachers for standing up for their beliefs against powerful forces seeking new shapes for education in America. However, the spark that lit this fire in particular, pensions, was in need of reform and this administration was willing to tackle it, however poorly that was executed. At some point, everyone stopped listening, started shouting, rammed through last minute bills, and shut down schools. Where did that get us? Where did that leave our kids?
We know where this road of division leads. It leads backwards. It leads Kentucky back to the pre-KERA days. Kentucky largely stood above our southern neighbors by abstaining from both divisive policies and discord amongst schools and educators. We worked largely toward a shared vision established, and funded, at KERA. And, we made serious progress. Devolving back into division away from our shared goals will only hurt our children.
Perhaps the days of KERA have run their course and it is time for a new shared vision for public education in Kentucky. Reasonable voices, I know, can find such a shared vision for us. But, I also know that national conservative voices that have done so much harm to public education in other states should have no seat at the conversation and no place in our vision in how to execute our mandate to provide "an efficient system of common schools."
But, the vision from which we cannot stray was written down at our founding. It has served Kentucky well for 226 years.
United we stand. Divided we fall.