Dr. Chris Willis is riding his bicycle across the northern part of the United States to raise funds for public schools, “I know how big even the smallest schools budgets are, and I’m not going to make up shortfalls with this effort but it’s a way to say thanks for what you do.”
By Jennifer Hall Lee
The fundraiser is called Pedal for Public Schools on fundly.com.
Willis is an associate professor in the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and he owns a 2018 Trek Domane SL 6. He said “I will dip my rear tire into the Puget Sound in Anacortes, Washington on the morning of June 7.”
For 57 days Willis is riding alone, but he has company–his youngest son is driving ahead to Willis’s destinations carrying his gear and clothing.
Willis will pass through 51 school districts. At the end of the ride he will be in Bar Harbor, Maine, visiting his daughter. That’s when he will “start writing checks for 51 school districts.”
Which way is Willis traveling? The Adventure Cyclists Association provides routes for cyclists. He chose its northern tier route because that route runs through his home state of Indiana and then through Bowling Green, Ohio, where he said, “I can sleep in my own bed.”
“Outside of parenting, schools are really the other space that we collectively all engage in that is a human development activity,” Willis said. He believes schools have a responsibility to educate children in their cognitive, social and emotional development.
According to Willis, in the last forty years “we’ve seen the reductionist view of schools where the only thing that’s important is a math test score and an English test score.” Indeed, for many decades in the United States many schools have focused on raising standardized test scores. However, our public education system was created to not only teach academics, but also to build a citizenry under the values of democracy.
Willis added that the reductionist view comes with “issues of market force because if we reduce it to a commodity of a math score or an English score on a test then it makes sense to think about [public school] as some kind of market versus as a resource, a human resource.” Willis has been heartened to see that recently there is a backlash against this reductionist approach. He likes the modern emphasis on such things as “trauma informed care” and “social emotional learning.”
He added, “We’re going to let teachers remember that kids are humans and that teachers are humans and we’re going to let the humans be human with each other.”
Willis repeated a phrase used at Bowling Green State, “We’re a public institution serving the public good, and that is exactly what we want to see happening with all of our public institutions including our k12 schools.”
Serving the public good sounds very good in these disquieting times in our nation.
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