Hope is not an action word

I am attending a mini-writing retreat today and tomorrow and just wrote this from a prompt.
Thinking about Rosemerry Watola Trommer’s poem, “Hope.”
I hate the word hope. I always have.
This could be a reflection of my lifelong battle with clinical depression or my adult life as the mother of a now 33 year old son with special needs and his daily roadblocks to “hope.”

Contributed by Marcie Lipsitt

This could be my decades of advocacy and activism fighting for children, teens and young adults with disabilities, public education and civil rights.
What I do know is that “hope” is not an effective action word that creates urgency and commitment to the changes I have tirelessly worked and fought for. Hope is a weak, wishy-washy verb that can’t make up its mind.
I have never seen hope lead to meaningful action. I could hope everyday for public education to provide a globally enviable education to ALL and Every child. I could hope for Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act to be implemented and enforced. I could hope voters across Red and Blue states would vote for civil rights, children and the institution of public education. I could hope parents would organize in their communities, states and at the federal level for students with disabilities to have measurable expectations of growth that would lead to them reaching their potentials. I could hope as a nation we would hold the institution of public education in the highest regard and put it at the very top of our domestic agenda.
I did more than hope in 2008 when I filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over Michigan’s alleged violations to the “highly qualified teacher” provision in both the No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A complaint that took nine months to investigate and led to Michigan having to change the teacher certification requirements for all secondary special education teachers.
Yes, so much more than hope. I researched the teacher requirements for secondary special education in all 50 states having stumbled upon the Michigan Department of Ed’s and being outraged that a secondary special ed teacher in my state only had to pass the MTTC Elementary Teacher Exam! Seriously? So pushing aside the “hope” that I could sprinkle magic fairy dust to create truly highly qualified teachers, I researched the requirements in all 50 states. Only Michigan had removed the requirement for our secondary special education teachers to also be endorsed in subject matter content and they pulled this stunt without requesting a formal waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.  It has always angered me that teachers and school administrators assume students with learning disabilities cannot learn and master the content standards in Algebra 1. Then when I uncovered Michigan’s dirty little secret, I started shouting from my roof-top, “how can our 9th graders with learning disabilities master the content and pass Algebra 1 when their special education teachers staffing resource rooms and co-taught classes can’t?”
“Hope” as a verb or a noun did not push me to research 50 states, or to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Ed. Only my outrage and anger at the poor outcomes of Michigan students with IEPs and especially those with learning disabilities that were losing their educations and legal right to be prepared for Post-Secondary, an eventual vocation and life of independence fueled my actions and commitment.
Fast-forwarding to December 10, 2015, yes I lost hope for the dream of Michigan and America having a globally enviable teaching force. This died with President Obama’s signature on the reauthorization of the Elementary-Secondary Education Act, now regurgitated as the Every Student (won’t) Succeed Act as just saying “No Child Left Behind” resulted in name-calling and anger from misguided parents, teachers and education advocates and activists.
“Hope” in any definition of the word just made me angry during the four hellish years of Trump and DeVos.  From January 1, 2017 to January 20, 2021, I fought my way through 1440 days of maintaining my intractable commitment to America’s children, public education and civil rights. Did I on any of these 1440 days “hope” for better public schools or an overhaul to archaic, ineffective teacher preparation programs or implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act? No I did not because “hope” in any sense of the word lacks action and forward motion. I hear weekly from some kind or considerate person, “You need to slow down because you are going to burn out.” My response has never wavered. I respond and say, “I have not burned out over my lifetime. I don’t burnout because my passion for children, public education and civil rights is not built on anything other than my tortured mission that children deserve everything we can give them to become happy and successful adults and as independent as their brains and bodies allow.
People can hope all they want. What does it really get them? So going back to Rosemary Wahtola Trommer’s poem, yes hope has holes that can be crater-sized and filled with hot-air and inaction. Hope can lead people to say, “this is too big for me and I will leave it for others to do.” Hope can lead to Don Quixote-idealism and “tilting at windmills.” I do believe we put one foot in front of the other from the moment we get out of bed until we get back into bed after another day of fighting for whom and what we believe in and in my case knowing I won’t live to see an institution of public education worthy of America’s K-12 students and seven million with IEPs; and a Federal Office of Civil Rights with the dollars and leadership needed to enforce civil rights. Still, I will forge on and ahead in the spirit of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s breathtaking musical Hamilton, “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”  A depressing way to spend my days as an advocate and activist? Yes it is. Is there any other choice? Not for me there isn’t.

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