Do we Really Need to talk about this?
There are some really ugly things going on out there in the world. Hate-fueled acts of violence against African-Americans, Jews and Muslims have been increasing. These are violent behaviors of Americans against their own countrymen and women. The FBI has released data showing that hate crimes have increased for the 3rdyear in a row. Good thing we are safe inside our schoolhouse because I really don’t want to talk about these awful things.
We cannot continue to hide behind reading scores and athletic competitions. Our students need guidance on how to think through these events and how to form their own opinions. If we, as educators and family members, do not fill the gap, nature abhors a vacuum and hate will move in to fill the spaces. The parents of the young man who recently killed a woman and injured 3 others in an attack on a Jewish house of worship cannot understand where he got these hateful ideas. They are calling him an object of evil. Yet he is their son, raised in their house with their other children.
Our schools need a vigorous social-emotional curriculum. This curriculum needs to include self-awareness. Each of us needs to realize who we are and what are our button that others can push.
Social awareness informs us of what is going on around us, how is society changing. What we think about those changes? Do we want to foster them or resist them?
One of the trickiest situations is self-management relationship skills. Our students with disabilities are often easily manipulated by others. Girls think sex is the way to get a boy’s attention. Boys think acting out in certain ways is expected of them or else they are not “manly”. In this era of more open discussion about our individual sexuality, young teens especially may be confused as to who they are.
Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own behavior. One person cannot change the world but each of us should be trying to. Each of us has a personal responsibility to prevent violence and move us to a more peaceful world.
Educators often have to do this work in a world that is filled with injustice and inequity for their students. We can’t run from this reality. To do so continues the separation of school from the real world. If we want our students to believe that what we teach in school has meaning for their “real” lives then we need not to be afraid to wade into the difficult discussions. Hear and listen to the words our children use. Teach them to move through the clutter and how to map the controversy and come to a reasonable decision for themselves. This is a time of great division in our society. Our kids have to navigate this time through dialogue not violence.
And yes, we really do need to talk about this.