#celebratelu: Activism

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Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get.

I have always been political, and I have always been vocal about my politics.  Ever since high school, I’ve marched for causes, signed thousands of petitions, written an equal number of letters, and done my fair share of contributing my efforts to get the candidates I’ve supported elected.  In my view, this what active citizenry looks like: you stay engaged, you participate, and you educate yourself so that you have a leg to stand on when the opposition comes at you…which they will, for that is also part of participatory democracy.

As a teacher, I wrestle with how vocal to be in my classroom, and also in my social media space: what can I write about? what should I share on Twitter?  This election has presented unique challenges because Trump was so often beyond the pale in terms of what he said and did.  There was no way to present this election in the normal way for my students, as I have for so many elections before, because he was simply not a normal candidate – no normal candidate has ever spoken or behaved the way he did, and I certainly did not want Trump to become the “new normal” for my young students.  Even watching the debates became impossible, for many parents let me know that they would not allow their children view the debates “just in case”, which was their way of saying they did want to expose their children to the language used by Mr. Trump.

After the election, there have been even more issues to contend with – the Immigration Ban, the farcical confirmation process, Trump’s Tweeting habits, and the rash of hate crimes which my students are really paying attention to, because they are in the news all the time now:

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There is a fine line between informing and advocating in a classroom setting, but I find myself having to cross it often these days because my kids are full of questions and opinions of their own: why are people racist? why does anti-Semitism still exist? why do people say hateful things? why don’t grown ups seem to ever listen to each other? why does everyone always shout at each other on the news? why are we still talking about all this bad stuff these days-haven’t we learned anything from the past?

These discussions always bring me back to something Mamie Till wrote in her book about her son Emmett’s murder: Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America:

That is, after all, how it works. We don’t come here with hatred in our hearts. We have to be taught to feel that way. We have to want to be that way, to please the people who teach us to want to be like them. Strange, to think that people might learn to hate as a way of getting some approval, some acceptance, some love.

Our classrooms and schools have to be places where hatred can be given no quarter, not even by silence:

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So, even though I feel as though I am skating on thin ice sometimes, I will continue to open our classroom to difficult questions and discussions.  Truth telling is a form of activism, and I celebrate that.

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13 thoughts on “#celebratelu: Activism

  1. Thanks, Tara. Troubling times when we have to consider long and hard how our actions impact our livelihood. And then what exactly is appropriate for our audience when the world seems to be full of lies and #alternative truths!

    I agree . . “Truth telling is a form of activism, and I celebrate that.” Without the truth, we are doomed. However, the people who only believe the words from one source ARE the truth are so totally missing the mark!

    ❤ ❤ ❤

  2. I admire you, Tara, and know this is a tough place to be, a teacher in the classroom. Focusing on the truth does not cross the line, however, And “silence does mean consent”, a Latin phrase (qui tacet consentire videtur,) I always posted in class. Carry On!

  3. Good for you, Tara. I love this statement from your post. “Truth telling is a form of activism, and I celebrate that.” Without the truth, we are doomed.” It is difficult being a teacher with inquisitive students asking honest questions. You have parents on one side, administration on the other, and your own set of convictions in the balance.

  4. Exactly. You have captured what many teachers are struggling with and the final decision we have come to. When hate and evil is given power we must show that we will always protect our children from it. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke. Thank you for your bravery, clear moral compass, and sharing. Peace.

  5. I, too, admire how your resolve to tell the truth to your students. I have a difficult time being impartial with my students who spout off things they’ve heard from their parents. How can I stay respectful of parents and also honor my own convictions? Usually I give the question back to them.

  6. Fran is right: “Without truth, we are doomed.” Yes, speaking truth is a form of activism because truth revealed and embraced brings change. Sometimes there is much information but limited knowledge, and then, truth can be difficult to discern. Blessings, Tara!

  7. Thank you, Tara for expressing what many of us are feeling these days. I have similar hesitations, but if we stay silent then we become accomplices to unjust acts. If we are to build a just, humane world, we need to teach our students the power of having a voice and how to be active.

  8. Thank goodness for teachers like you. I know many of my former colleagues are also skating this thin ice. “Truth telling is a form of activism,” and I celebrate teachers who refuse to stay silent and are willing to have the tough conversations in their classrooms.

  9. I know it’s a difficult line to walk. We have also had some difficult conversations in my library classes. These are unusual times for teachers in the U.S. I think we have to teach our students to question things and above all to have respect and empathy for others right now. And yes, we need to give our students truth.

  10. Children entering the middle school years need a safe place to “air” their thoughts. Having a competent grownup to help them navigate the tricky concept of the “truth” is so important. They hear so much at home and on the media that they are questioning; it’s a time that’s ripe for discussion and for hearing the perspective of “others.” It’s also a great way to introduce discussions of how to separate truth from rumor, facts from misinformation, and so on. These are skills they will need as they navigate the murky waters of social media. I applaud you for taking on what is so difficult to do as a teacher in these hyper-political times.

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