Eventually, you have to say something. At 7 Generation Games, we’ve decided today is that day.
We – like so many others in education – watched the news with great disappointment as someone with no experience in public education was selected by the thinnest of margins to lead the Department of Education. There has been plenty of dissection in the media about Betsy DeVos’ credentials, or lack thereof. But this isn’t about ranting or taking jabs. We are concerned with the potential impact of her appointment – and the messages that her appointment and this presidential administration as a whole send – to the education community and students across this country.
We were started as a company to develop educational software for students living in rural communities. We wanted to build games for kids that no one was building games for – games that could overcome the digital divide (39 percent of rural Americans still lack access to broadband internet, surging to 68 percent of Americans living on rural tribal lands). So much of DeVos’ education work has been about “school choice,” but what about kids who come from rural communities where they don’t have a choice? In these communities, what students need is for these schools to be improved and better supported – because there is no other choice. It’s the exact reason why the two Republican senators who voted against DeVos did so – because the agenda she represents is detrimental to rural students. According to the Department of Education, which DeVos now leads, a quarter of all public school students live in rural areas and a third of public schools are in rural communities. Having worked with a number of these schools, we’ve seen what these schools need – and what they need is better infrastructure, additional funding and better support. Those things are a matter of necessity, not choice.
Furthermore, as a company dedicated to equality and opportunity for ALL students, we have watched over the last several months as educators and students at the schools using our games became increasingly concerned by the divisive rhetoric that was unfortunately a part of the winning presidential campaign. Teachers who have had to have incredibly difficult conversations with their classrooms and assuage students’ very legitimate fears. Teachers who have watched as someone who has never taught, who lacks the credentials to even serve as a school administrator, is selected to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Kids who commented on how they were scared that their parents would be taken away. Kids from families who are worried because they just witnessed that our government feels it has the power to decide not to acknowledge the rights of green card holders who come from certain nationalities. Kids who had been told by other kids that the new president was going send them back to Mexico (even kids born here who had never been to Mexico). Kids who worry about the impact of destroying tribal lands and failing to recognize Native rights. If you work around kids, you realize they are a lot more tuned in than people often give them credit for.
We believe kids deserve better. In fact, that has been a driving force behind everything we do at 7 Generation Games since founding our company in 2013. But in recent months, weeks and days, we came the conclusion that simply working harder to create better games to better educate students wasn’t enough. That’s why we’re speaking up.
For a while, we’ve been trying to figure out what our role as a small startup working to help improve education and lives in communities of all sizes and all demographics from the smallest towns in North Dakota to the biggest city in California should be.
We don’t expect this post to change the current system. But as our games incorporate history, we know that it is not one voice that creates change, but a collective of voices that rises loud enough to be heard. If we can be one small part of that, then we will do our one small part.
We also believe that while speaking up is important, so is acting. We’ll have more on that tomorrow.