One Teacher’s Thoughts on the Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education

(Note: This is a response to Senator Bernie Sanders’s so-called Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education. I am writing my response as an open letter because the contact form on the Sanders senate website kept giving me an “Access Denied” error.)

Senator Sanders,

I am a black educator in Philadelphia, who teaches mostly black and brown students. You are still my favored candidate in the 2020 Presidential race. But I’m losing enthusiasm. I still think your platform is the best, but there are some issues with your messaging. It is lofty and abstract for a lot of people, and doesn’t feel based in community outreach.

Please stop invoking dead black icons like MLK and Thurgood Marshall, and instead start referring to the people of color who still alive and working today on the issues you highlight in your campaign. Invite some of those folks into conversation, like how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared with Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Riverside church in New York a few months back.

As for the “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education” — I get it, it’s a cute play on words, and name drops an important black historical figure. But that reference (to the Marshall Plan) is lost on most people, and even Thurgood’s name isn’t really gonna pull any black voters in 2020.

Anyway, I took it upon myself to make some comments on, and some cuts to, the plan.

Of note is that I removed the ungainly intro that no one will read, though I did paste it back at the bottom for commentary, because there were a number of issues with it.

The plan needs specifics, but it also needs to get to the point, and quickly. It spends way too much time “identifying” the challenges in education, and that is problematic for two reasons:

1) It presents a “Bernie-knows-all” stance on education, as if the people living it don’t already know what the challenges are. We do, and if you just come to us with how you’re going to solve the problems, we’ll appreciate it more. For those who don’t know, of course you can offer more in-depth commentary, but you should not lead with that.

2) The whole thing is TL; DR. That’s not only a comment on shorter attention spans, but if you understand anything about teachers, it’s that we don’t have much spare time. What time we do have will not likely be spent reading the Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education.

Do what you will with my comments. Or nothing. I am only one teacher, after all.


Kermit O