One of my new-teacher friends asked me to post something about the recent election and it’s taken me a couple of days to think through what I could say.

There isn’t much to say.

But:

What we saw was the revelation of something we might already have known.  We are a divided nation.  Racism and othering of all kinds are real.  People are afraid.  They want easy answers.  They perceive rage and impulsiveness as strength, consideration and thoughtfulness as weakness.  It’s easier to label and withdraw our compassion than to open, inquire, and embrace.

If the election had gone the other way, this state of affairs would differ only in the types of battles we would be fighting.  The protests would be ugly and violent and Congress would set its face implacably against the president.  Any gains would come in the teeth of fierce resistance and shoved down the throats of the angry half of the nation.  We’d be just as divided as we are now, only raging rather than gloating/mourning.

Is it possible that four years of what they think they want will be the best argument for another way?  Is it possible that people will grow tired of fearing one another and want to go to amicable, peaceable co-existence?  That’s the hope to which I cling.

We never needed teachers more than we do now, especially those who teach English and Social Studies.  The compassion that literature imparts and the lessons history holds for us are now vital to our kids’ lives.

Yesterday I put 3 take-aways on the board.

  1.  We must stop being hateful and rotten to one another.  Rude, cruel speech is an attack, an attempt to invalidate another person.  If you slap a label on someone, you’ve put them in a basket, deplorable or otherwise, that means you don’t have to listen to them anymore.  That’s the problem, not the solution.  We must stop, and teach our kids to stop, annihilating with words those with whom they disagree.  And the same for us.  Our new president is a person, not any of the names it might feel good to call him, and so is each one of his supporters.  The only way to heal the rift is to listen and respond with respect.
  2. Truth matters.  Good decisions come not from fear, nor actually from unfounded hope, but from careful understanding of reality.
  3. Kids need to run for public office.  Start by going to your borough hall or township building and finding out what committees you are free to join.  Get involved.  How cool would it be if our  former students ran for school board?  For mayor?  For state representative?

There have always been bad ideas scurrying round underfoot, in every age.  The only way to defeat a bad idea is with a better, truer one– and that has happened.  Women got the vote.  Slavery ended.  Kids didn’t have to work in sweatshops.  Products had to be accurately labeled.  Everybody got to go to school.  Rather than wishing we  could ram our good ideas into place, we have learned that we must do the painstaking work of demonstrating their merit.

So that’s what we teachers are going to do.  We will foster respectful, truthful debate and compassion for all humans and encourage our kids to express their views thoughtfully and clearly.  Our new president has four years to do what he can; then, the people will decide on how he did.  He will be judged.

We teachers have the lifetimes of all our combined students to leave a legacy of love and wisdom.