Thursday, March 30, 2023

We Must Find A Way

We must find a way to make wrong things right, hand in hand, together.

Living in a Rainbowland
Where everything goes as planned
And I smile
'Cause I know if we try, we could really make a difference in this world
I won't give up, I'll sleep a wink
It's the only thought I think, you know where I stand
I believe we can start living in Rainbowland

A Florida public school art teacher, teaching at a school that emphasizes its "classical" education, recently showed her sixth graders a photo of Michelangelo's sculpture of David during a lesson on Renaissance art, one of the most famous and influential statues in Western history. A parent complained that it was pornographic, which lead to the firing of the school's principal.

Living in a Rainbowland
Where you and I go hand in hand
Oh, I'd be lying if I said this was fine
All the hurt and the hate going on here
We are rainbows, me and you
Every color, every hue
Let's shine on through
Together, we can start living in a Rainbowland

In Florida and elsewhere, educators have been forced to removed books that address race, gender, and bigotry from their classroom bookshelves under threat not only of being disciplined or fired, but being charged with a felony. These book bans have included the removal of books by such iconic writers as Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood. The Diary of Anne Frank has been banned, as have books about civil rights icons like Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Even books on pioneering athletes like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente have been removed from shelves.

The skies are blue and things are grand
Wouldn't it be nice to live in paradise
Where we're free to be exactly who we are
Let's all dig down deep inside
Brush the judgment and fear inside
Make wrong things right
And end the fight
'Cause I promise ain't nobody gonna win (come on)

In Wisconsin, elementary school administrators prevented a class of first graders from singing the song Rainbowland because, apparently, its message of love and togetherness, is "too controversial." They had previously banned The Muppets song Rainbow Connection on the same grounds. They argued that the theme was too mature for young children. I've included the lyrics in this post. Judge for yourself.

Living in a Rainbowland
Where you and I go hand in hand together (let's do it together)
Chase dreams forever
I know there's gonna be a greener land
We are rainbows, me and you
Every color, every hue
Let's shine on
Together, we can start living in a Rainbowland

The educators involved in all of these stories, and many others have received received death threats above and beyond those implied every day as our nation does nothing at all to prevent mentally ill people from arming themselves with guns from murdering us and the children we teach. The US House of Representatives has recently passed legislation that, if it were to become law, would only make all of this worse.

Our profession is under attack, literally. I am a teacher. I have always loved being a teacher, but there is no way that I'd encourage my own child to enter this profession, not in today's world. I've never worked in a public school, but many of my good friends do. All of them are considering walking away, even in places where the statue of David or Rainbowland aren't considered controversial. The job was already difficult before this recent intensification of the culture wars that seek to ban teaching about the very essence of our nation's principles and history. The job was already thankless before we could wind up as felons or murder victims just for wanting to support and teach young children and their families.

There is a reason that fewer and fewer young people are seeking careers in teaching. There is a reason that school districts across the nation are struggling with staffing, even going so far as to lower their standards just to get warm bodies in the room. 

I want to call for a general teacher's strike, but the truth is, it's already happening. In slow motion, one teacher at a time, we are walking out, walking away, leaving our classrooms and kids behind. I know there are many who are girding themselves to stay because the children and their families need them, because they still feel they can do good "inside the cracks." I won't judge anyone's decision, but I worry that change will not come through passive resistance and quiet subversion alone. 

As educators, we have so much more power than we know. Without us, the economy simply cannot function. I don't know how, I don't know when, and I don't know who, but if we really want to serve children and their families, we must find a way to make wrong things right, hand in hand, together.


"I recommend these books to everyone concerned with children and the future of humanity." ~Peter Gray, Ph.D. If you want to see what Dr. Gray is talking about you can find Teacher Tom's First Book and Teacher Tom's Second Book right here

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