#BlogHer16: Morning Session on Back To School!
Now that I lured you in with that vague but cheery title, let's talk about what's going on at BlogHer so far.
Since we're in back to school season, there are a lot of organizations doing good work to focus on kids' health and wellness, and their access to those things, which isn't a given.
Besides the summer slide (where kids' school readiness and proficiency in subjects regresses since if you don't use it, you lose it), this is also a good time to consider how kids' nutrition may have suffered over the summer if kids' didn't have access to free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch. And of course, with some kids getting ready to enter school or get into sports, access to healthcare and a medical professional who can sign off on school forms is essential-- but for many, it's not easy to access.
So I made it a priority to attend the Back To School event to see if there might be others interested in these issues.
As we waited in line for breakfast, I ended up talking not about back to school season but about election season. The line was long, and so was our conversation. The woman I stood next to told me about her family dynamics and the push and pull of opinions, experiences, and facts (which, as we can see in our social media feeds, too often get short shrift).
I told her about the #WeWontWait campaign, in which thousands of women are coming together to have kitchen table conversations -- and blogging conversations -- about what's at stake this election, and how we can encourage each other to get registered to vote and get to the polls.
Our voices really CAN make a difference. If even the three people who are reading this right now go to that link above to make sure they're registered, we'll be making progress! And then you three, tell three friends, and ask each of them to tell three friends... look, this isn't a pyramid scheme, it's just the future of our country.
Then the sponsored part of the program started and a Staples rep came out, along with the celebrities, Gabrielle Reece and Lori Loughlin.
I'm going to be totally honest with you-- this wasn't my favorite part. The questions were so insipid ("Do you think we should pick school supplies that are fun? Or functional?" "What do you think about encouraging kids?").
But Gabrielle Reece actually turned some of that around and mentioned how she felt it was most important to make it clear to her kids how lucky they are, how not every kid has the chance to attend a well-supported school, how important it is to give back to the community. (Thank you, Gabrielle for keeping it real and being yourself.)
That was the conversation I was more interested in, since back to school for a lot of kids in this country doesn't mean new shoes, new backpacks, new supplies at all. It means the stress of not having any of that. It means the relief of free and reduced cost meals. It can mean the fear of getting caught in a school-to-prison pipeline.
sidebar: ok I feel like this is the part of the post that's parallel to McSweeney's post 'It's Decorative Gourd Season MotherFuckers,' where he gets to the part about Diff'rent Strokes. You might think he escalated that post quickly, talking about felonies and gourds. And that *this* post escalated, talking about school-to-prison pipelines. You know what though? Life wants us to keep it real, from gourds to back-to-school. (If you haven't read that hilarity, do it and come back.) Carry on.
Back-to-school also means teachers begging for help purchasing supplies, and using their own money to do it. It means having access to school food, which, thanks to FLOTUS Michelle Obama's work and the work of many organizations, is more nutritious than before.
On the teachers-needing-help front, the Staples rep did talk about their $!M commitment to donorschoose.org, where teachers can fundraise for projects and supplies they need, and donors can, well, choose to whom they contribute.
This is great and I will be the first to support charitable giving by individuals, foundations, and sometimes from corporations. (Let's be real-- sometimes corporate donations aren't for altruistic reasons, and that matters to me, and to our tax code and economy, too.)
At the same time, I think it's fair to ask what kind of laws at the local, state, and federal levels, and what corporate policies, might support our schools in a more fundamental, long-term way, so that teachers don't have to beg every back to school season for the barest minimum of supplies.
What do you think? Tweet me @Anita_Sarah!