Friday, August 18, 2017

What Did You Learn In School Today?

There has never been a more important time than now for teachers to do our jobs. The events of the past week have made it more clear than ever that none of us have the luxury of burying ourselves in crafts or finger songs. There are Nazis, literal Nazis, well-armed and marching in our streets carrying the flags, giving the salutes, chanting the chants, beating people, and even killing them. And they are apparently doing it with the approval of the President who says that some of them are "very fine people," while equating their excesses with those of the people who stand against them. His equivocation has buoyed them.

The Holocaust happened because decent people looked away, because they decided to sit this one out, or because they couldn't stand the unpleasantness. This is our moment. This is the moment when our grandchildren will ask what we did. As important adults in the lives of children, we cannot be silent. We must come to school each day prepared to answer their questions honestly.

When they ask "Why?" I'm going to answer, "Because their sadness and fear has turned into hate."

When they ask "Why?" I'm going to answer, "Because they believe that they are better than other people because of the color of their skin."

When they ask "Why?" I'm going to answer, "Because citizens must fight those who want to hurt others."

When they ask "Why?" I'm going to answer, "Because I love my fellow humans."

I might not use those exact words, but I will not mince them either. And while I will strive to be calm, I will not have failed should I also communicate through my emotions. Too often, our instinct as educators is to hide unpleasant truths from children for fear of making them feel unsafe. That's why we must also point out that they are surrounded by good people, that there are more of us than there are of them, that we've beaten them before and we will beat them again, to "look for the helpers," and assure them that we will protect them just as they will grow up to protect others.

As John Dewey wrote, "Democracy must be born anew with every generation, and education is its midwife." We are now being called to the bedside.

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