It was a nice summer night a couple of years ago, and my daughter was just learning to ride a bike. We were out in the parking lot of my building just as it was getting dark. I sat and watched her learn to steer and brake. A moment that is a touchstone in one’s life, that you hope your mind flashes back to when you leave this earth.
After a while she came and sat next to me and started talking about her life. “Where will I go to college?” “Where will I work?”
As I smiled, and said all the things a father is supposed to say like “Anywhere you want Honey. You can do whatever makes you happy”, my heart sank because I knew what I was telling her was a lie. I was looking at my daughter, at all the hope and potential that she had, juxtaposed with the terrible social, political and economic conditions of this planet and I feared for her future.
She was 10 years old.
I teach high school seniors who are four months away from graduation and I am sending them out into a country that is no longer even pretending to be a democracy. I write them recommendations, they receive their college acceptance letters, but I fear for their futures. In my government class I teach them from their textbooks about the magnificence of the Constitution, the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances. We study civil rights and pivotal Supreme Court cases, but in reality I might as well be teaching them fiction.
How can we continue to pretend that this nation is guided by the rule of law when corrupt politicians lie with impunity?
Everyday we watch, as oil companies deny climate change, banks laugh off regulations, laws are passed to criminalize freedom of speech, immigrant families are treated as less than human, and our rights are wiped off the face of the earth. Both major political parties are two sides of the same corporate coin, and the mainstream media is controlled by the same money as the politicians. We the People are marching in the streets--protesting while the police are militarized and the citizens of this country are criminalized. The very same politicians--who are, in fact, employees of The People--run from town hall meetings, and call us out of line for wanting to save our nation.
Schools are supposed to be safe places for our children.
Yet hate filled bigots deride teachers for trying to keep them that way. Racism has always been the ugliest part of this country’s history, but it is now openly celebrated by supporters of this presidential administration. Compassion and intelligence is considered to many as weakness, and facts are far outweighed by loud mouthed ignorance. Cable talk is designed to obfuscate the grand embezzlement of our hopes and dreams. Our billionaire Secretary of Education begrudges poor children of free lunch, our Congress seeks to take away their health care, our Attorney General wants to send them as slaves into the for-profit prison system, a white supremacist in the oval office wants to ban muslims, and this current president is waging a war against facts. Yet I tell my students to stand every morning for the Pledge of Allegiance.
This is the world in which our children must live.
There is one ultimate driving force in any parent’s life, and that is to protect their children. We parents, who are also teachers bring that same protective instinct into our classrooms. We are in loco parentis when they enter our school buildings, and I speak for many of my colleagues who would, without question’ sacrifice their lives to protect every child in their care.
Yet, our government wants to turn them into cannon fodder for their next manufactured war. They are still, until this day, judged on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
Knowing all of this, how can we, as teachers look our kids in the face? We, as teachers, must fight to make this a better world for, our students, no matter the cost. By any means necessary. We will defend our children with our lives, and we will take down every sell-out politician, and every low-life billionaire to do so.
We must stop arguing about our differences and unite around our one common goal, our children.