T-Shirt Activism

Who knew that designing a t-shirt could prompt such angst?

Throughout my time researching the charter school debate, I’ve clung rather firmly to my identity as a non-activist. It’s not that I lack opinions, but rather that I don’t feel comfortable suggesting that others ought to adopt them.[1] However, while working this past weekend with the talented Emily Ulrich on the design for Charter Wars apparel, I found myself suggesting an activist slogan – “End the Charter Wars”

Now, I recognize this doesn't constitute a particularly extreme slogan; I’m not exactly printing out “DOWN with charter schools” or “Public education needs more charters NOW,” but still, this design endorses a belief and advocates for others to support that belief.[2] Given the intense scrutiny over word choice in the charter school debate, I was nervous that even this innocuous t-shirt could be misconstrued. If only I could print a large asterisk on the back of each shirt and hand out accompanying leaflets detailing my stance,[3] but apparently that is neither practical nor fashionable. So instead, I will declare here, on the internet, exactly what "End the Charter Wars" means to me: 

  • Recognize the complexity of the charter school debate and that everyone involved has many different values and motivations. 
  • Reject the simplistic “either you’re with us or against us” mentality.  
  • Be honest about what you believe, what you fear and what you don’t know for sure.

NOTE: “End The Charter Wars” does NOT mean end the debate, put aside your differences, and sing kumbaya.

Constructive debate requires you to listen and then respond. War on the other hand, prioritizes defeating your enemy above all else. Being at war distracts us. It means that rather than listening to arguments, we categorize people and decide whether to support them fully or destroy them completely.

 photo kick.gif

So when I say “End The Charter Wars” I am advocating for the end to erroneous claims, the misrepresentation of data, and prioritizing the total destruction of your opponent.

What does End the Charter Wars mean to you? Share your thoughts below! 

- Sivahn 

[1] And true to my self-identified non-activist persona, I would not suggest that others shy away from activism. On the contrary, similar to being a doctor or an IT helpdesk employee, being an activist is something that I could never do myself, but am incredibly grateful that other people are so inclined.

[2] For any grammar nerds out there, it's the use of the imperative that transforms this tshirt into a piece of activism.

[3] My girlfriend jokes (teases) that my marriage proposal will likely come attached with a similar leaflet complete with footnotes, addenda and appendices – not to mention graphs!