Lead with courage to move our world forward
From the ACSA President, Parvin Ahmadi
May 13, 2024
The word “lead” means to step forward or out, to go first, to lead off base and move forward. As leaders, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to ask ourselves every day, “How are all our children doing? Are our most marginalized students being served to the highest degree and with genuine care and love? Are the adults in charge of their care fully committed to their success and wellbeing? Are we removing all systemic barriers and, just as importantly, building new pathways for them to succeed?”
As I traveled around this year as ACSA president, I heard great conversations and keynotes at conferences, witnessed collective advocacy in regions, and saw our strong influence advocating for students in Sacramento.
ACSA leaders show clear intent to do what is right for children — all children. Turning that intent into action takes intentional work, requires courage and demands attention to visible and invisible barriers that maintain the status quo. It also requires leaders to surround themselves with people who have nothing but the best interest of children, with the necessary skills and knowledge and the will to lead with courage, and to step forward to serve all children, especially those who are under-resourced, underserved and deprived of justice.
So in this context, I take “leading” to mean moving forward and being willing to push the envelope, to be courageous and to use our voice — the most potent magic in existence — powerfully. To be a leader obligates us to seek the truth, to embrace discomfort and as Dr. Cornell West so eloquently expresses, to educate ourselves so that we become so unsettled and unnerved that we have to raise questions about who we are as human beings.
Witnessing the uprising by college students gives me hope, and watching the reaction of those who are entrusted to support and care for them causes me grave concerns. Exercising their inalienable right to free speech and peaceful assembly, students are faced with brute force and violence against them and their professors who support their cause, which is to stop dehumanization and the collective punishment of innocent human beings instead of investing in people and in a just world.
Yes, watching mainstream media may paint a different picture. Don’t take my word for it. Please seek the truth. Observe. Talk to these young people and see for yourself what they stand for. This generation knows its power, errs on the side of humanity, seeks truth and leads to build a better future for everyone. They see this as today’s moral issue.
The solidarity dividend that can pull people out of poverty and build an equitable new world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive is the same solidarity dividend we are seeing today in student movements around the world. It is what we saw in the Black Lives Matter movement and in the 1980s against apartheid — black, white, every gender and from every ethnicity and economic status locking arms, leading and standing together to say, “Enough is enough!”
These are the young people who sat in your classrooms a few years ago learning to become critical thinkers, problem solvers and leaders. We must not wonder why there is such a backlash against the efforts of amazing educators in the classroom who teach children critical thinking, how to examine and push against systems of oppression and to embrace diversity.
As educational leaders in ACSA we share our voice at the Capitol, in Washington and in our school districts. We protect our students’ rights to be who they are, and encourage our teachers to use their amazing craft to engage students in critical thinking. We support sound legislation and push hard against legislation that impedes us from doing our best work for students in order to create welcoming, inclusive, equitable spaces with improved outcomes for all children. We keep a keen eye on legislation written to limit our students’ rights to express who they are freely and without the threat of intimidation laws that impede freedom of speech and hinder our ability to advocate for equity and support historically marginalized students. That is leading!
As we near a fiscal cliff due to budget shortfalls, there will be an expectation to find ways to cut costs. Please be vigilant that the programs we have put in place to create equitable conditions and improved outcomes for our students do not become the “low hanging fruits” for budget cuts.
Let’s step forward, lean in and lead to ensure our students do not lose the necessary support to thrive. The choice is ours; suffer the consequences of our inaction and complicity or lean in, step forward and use our collective efforts and voice to demand better for our students and their future.