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- The Case of the Shrinking Education Department - November 12, 2017
- We Must Teach the Worst of our History; Not Glorify It - August 14, 2017
- Transgender Student Rights are Human Rights - February 23, 2017
- Why "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" Still Matters in 2017 - January 16, 2017
- No Right to an Education: Detroit Schools and the Secretary of Education Nominee - November 29, 2016
- I Think I Failed You - A Civics Teacher's Letter to her Former Students - November 16, 2016
- Transforming the 'Trump Effect' in Schools - October 27, 2016
- Implicit Bias: The Missed Post-Debate Discussion - October 4, 2016
- 15 Years after 9/11: Days of Infamy & Memory as History - September 12, 2016
This month marks 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This year marks 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King gave his great “I Have a Dream” speech on the Mall in Washington, D.C. that spurred the Civil Rights Movement forward. And this week marks the second inauguration of President Barack Obama as President of the United States. More than a legacy of slavery and civil rights connects these marks of history; the path of growth that illuminates the potential of this country connects them. It was in his second Inaugural Address that President Abraham Lincoln implored Americans “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” to work together to heal the wounds of the Civil War and join together once again – for all to belong to a new future. President Obama echoed that theme in his own second Inaugural Address.
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As teachers, we constantly look for ways to show our students that they belong on this same path of growth and discovery. We celebrate the diversity of their backgrounds while drawing them together in a unity of shared knowledge and culture. We appeal to their innate sense of right and wrong to teach them values and character amidst the lessons of how to read and write and do math. Understanding history is a major part of this path – because by understanding our history, we can make better decisions for the future. The 2013 Inauguration ceremony reminds us that the future before us is our responsibility, and our students must be able to see themselves in that future.
The Inauguration Ceremony began with an Invocation by Myrlie Evers-Williams. She is the widow of Medgar Evers, whose story belongs to every American child as they learn the bitter struggle this country has had to endure to find and hold onto equality. She later became the head of the NAACP and turned one of the premier institutions of Civil Rights around and got it back on its feet. The NAACP is still the symbol and the mechanism for so many of our students to find their way to graduation from college. Fifty years after her husband was murdered by a white supremacist, Mrs. Evers-Williams became the first woman and the first layperson to give the Invocation at a Presidential Inauguration. She reminds us teachers of our crucial role in bringing our students into the story of which she was one of the authors:
As we sing the words of belief, “this is my country,” let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. ... One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][votes] to today’s expression of a more perfect union.
This legacy is one that is not so far removed that our students cannot relate to it. It is into this legacy that they must graduate and become adults. How will they choose to live? Will they become effective human beings who work within community to better their own circumstances and those of their neighbors? Will they understand their own role as thoughtful, honest and aware people to be as crucial as they are told their test taking skills must be?
The President called on all Americans during his second inaugural address to recognize that we are all in this together. It is time for us to value our role as teachers of the future in a way that current education policy reform has not recognized: we are acting in concert to clear that path that leads to the future. As the President said:
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
The President also invoked Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall – three pivotal actions of civil disobedience that broke through barriers by demanding recognition for the rights of women, people of color and LGBT Americans. Inspiration is one thing; action is another. The action is in American classrooms around this country, which will convene tomorrow and continue to move along the path of progression to a more perfect union. Teachers are the vanguard of the new barrier-breaking force in this country because they are the ones who pull together those pieces of history, those ties of belonging, that sense of unity. Teachers pave the way for the next Seneca Falls, the next Selma, and the next Stonewall – the next Dr. King and the next Barack Obama. This Inauguration reminds us that our quest for a more perfect union is ongoing and it is ready for our students to become its leaders.
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