I googled “protest” hoping to find an image to add to the sign I was making. I instantly found myself lost in a world of black and white snapshots of our country’s history. As I scrolled through, I saw photographs of Americans desperate for change. Their signs were timeless; they demanded equality and respect. I had seen many of these images, or similar images, many times before. What struck me this time, for the first time, was the opposition that was sprinkled throughout the rows of search results. One image in particular grabbed my attention. It was a picture of men lined up in front of the headquarters of the National Association Opposed to Woman’s Suffrage. They were reading the information posted in the window by an organization that was actively trying to quell the rebellion that was growing within a discontented population.
At every point in our history when people have demanded change, there have been those resisting that change. Women demanded the right to vote. Reasons to oppose this change included suffrage fostering an unhealthy competition with men, women only serving to either double or annul their husband’s vote, and the benefit not outweighing the costs involved. These reasons were stated as fact, printed in brochures and disseminated widely. It must be noted that the NAOWS was heavily funded by those who were positioned to make profit from the sale of alcohol. Was their opposition fueled by their fear that women voting would lead to the passage of laws that would limit alcohol consumption and sales?
The suffragettes faced fierce opposition for the same reason that we “refusers” are being opposed. We threaten an established belief about how the world should be. By refusing the tests, we are saying that our public education system has been bought. That is scary. We are forcing people to grapple with the idea of losing local control of their schools. That is scary. We are exposing the plan of those that are positioned to make a profit from the privatization of our public schools. That is dangerous.
We have to let go of the notion that we are “just” moms, dads and students opting out of a test. We are all equally important parts of a movement that will preserve public education. We are teaching our children that education is to be valued. We are telling our legislators that they are being held accountable. We are telling millionaires that our schools can’t be bought. When people tell us that we are teaching our children to be quitters, that the tests are necessary, and that there is no effect on their kids, we need to picture them standing at the NAOWS headquarters. They are the resistors that have been present during every call for change. We are the proud, brave people whose images will define the movement.