Sunday, December 16, 2012

First we mourn, then we organize


Educators across the nation will enter school with heavy hearts on Monday. Beneath flags at half-mast and between hugs of staff and students, teachers will navigate through difficult questions and raw fears as we remember and honor the victims of the Sandy Hook School tragedy.

First, we mourn.

We mourn for the victims, for their families, for the heroic Sandy Hook staff, and for the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut.

We also mourn for this nation and for the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been affected by this country’s epidemic of mass killings and incessant gun violence.

We also grieve.

As professional educators, we will help our students process their grief and fears. Using social media, teacher unions, school districts and individual teachers have provided resources on how to guide conversations.

Six educators (all women), twelve girls and eight boys (all 1st graders) were killed in the massacre. Our grieving will never completely end.

We also honor. And the best way to do so is to organize against senseless gun violence.

There are some commentators who say, “No, you can’t take on the gun lobby, you will never win. Talk about keeping children safe, yes. But don’t talk about gun control.”

But, as Nicholas Kristof wrote in Sunday’s New York Times, “What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won't stand up to the N.R.A.?”

We can hope that our political leaders will, in future weeks, take “meaningful action” against gun violence. We can also hope that this country begins to address the crisis in mental health services.

But the only way to make sure our hopes come true is to organize.

It will take nothing less than a mass movement to ensure that our political leaders fulfill their responsibilities and actually do something rather than lament the power of the pro-gun lobby.

Given the events of Sandy Hook, parents and educators have a particular role to play, including the NEA and AFT leadership. Likewise, community leaders must demand a community-wide response, and religious and business leaders must call  upon their colleagues. Together, we all must demand that our elected leaders address the epidemic of gun violence and the crisis in mental health care.

In the coming days, we will mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

But we must also organize to prevent future such tragedies. We have no choice.

23 comments:

  1. Beautiful piece. I am also looking for ways to mourn and organize with my students. Here's where I started: http://innovationonearth.com/2012/12/14/how-to-talk-to-your-parents-about-newtown/
    Thank you.

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    1. Your job IS NOT to organize your students. Your job is TO teach. When will you idiots get that through your head. Leave the politics out of the classroom or go into politics if you are so passionate!

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    2. You must mean, teach them to organize, right?

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    3. What is teaching if it isn't understanding the political system? What is teaching if it isn't learning to confront social issues in civil ways? What is teaching if it isn't discussing the world around them? Politics are a part of everything. They are not separate from life. Look at the best education systems and you will see teachers and administers deciding what should happen in the political arena (Finland, Sweden, Singapore).

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    4. I wonder why the idea of us teachers talking with our students about these issues that are so prevalent in their lives prompts you to scold so angrily? Part of our job as teachers is to operate and act in ways that are in the best interest of our students and the communities in which we teach and live.

      Would your answer be that we simply ignore the horror of Sandy Hook, even when our students come to school with questions they need to ask and opinions of their own they wish to share and refine? I'm hear to tell you that if we do that, we are ignoring our jobs.

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  2. Thank you for the resources.....

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  3. Let the Propaganda begin...

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  4. Complaing about gun control or the gun control lobby isnt going to solve this problem. Look at the city of Chicago. They have the STRICTEST gun control laws in the nation and they have over 600 homicides this year alone. Criminals will still get their hands on guns. If this disturbed person wasnt able to get a gun, he could have made a bomb, it could have been much worse. It seems that ALL of these recent shootings have happened in GUN FREE ZONES. These disturbed people know this and EXPLOIT it. Think if the principal or other office staff could have defened themselves, most if not all of those kids would be alive today. If you going to blame gun control laws on this, then blame them for elevating this horrible tragedy.

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  5. Now I see what the band Pink Floyd meant by "Hey! Teacher! leave them kids alone!!!" This tragedy does NOT give you a "mandate" to indoctrinate my children!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. What on this post is indoctrination? I think the point is to discuss and try to find ways to solve or prevent. There could be many. To ignore or say that politics shouldn't be a part of the classroom is more of an indoctrination to the status quo than trying to problem solve in a critical way.

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    3. That would be Sara up a few comments and your as well. If I want my kids to learn about politics, I will teach them. Unlike YOU I will provide them facts about both sides, NOT just one side. Which conveniently is what you teach! Why don't you stick to teaching them HOW Govt. works rather than how YOU think Govt. should work.

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  6. We should organize against the NEA, not the NRA. The NEA has proven that it has no ability to protect our children and has only used them to promote their propaganda.

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  7. “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

    You're right, it's time we act. It's time we tell our representatives that we get rid of the stupid gun free school zones and allow teachers and adults with CCW permits to carry in schools.

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    1. Stopping violence with violence is what we should be teaching?

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  8. Wanting to pass more "gun control" laws to protect childeren while all the while supporting the murder of thousands through abortion is hypocritical at best. Teachers have NO right to indoctrinate our kids with their liberal garbage. It is that type of thinking that has gotten us into this mess to begin with!

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  9. You people should be willing to post your name with your comment. Stand up for what you believe in and dont be a coward and post comments anonymously.

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  10. Let's be honest NEA. Gun control is just people control. The government gains more power over law-abiding citizens, and the criminals still do what they have always done.

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  11. Look at the gun laws in other wealthy nations and their gun crime rates. They have much stricter gun laws and dramatically fewer gun deaths. The incidents of mass shootings that have become a part of regular American life are basically non-existant. Of course these countries all also have universal healthcare and better social safety nets in general, which helps a lot - but the changes in gun laws in nations like Australia and Japan have reduced gun deaths and mass shootings tremendously. There will always be violent people, so reducing their access to weapons designed for mass destruction is a logical response. As far as teachers discussion political issues with their students, that is a critical part of education. If we hope to remain a democracy, then we need to educate our children to be part of the democratic process - that means discerning reliable information from biased information, questioning assumptions, attempting to see problems and issues from multiple perspectives, and forming informed decisions as a result of that process. I applaud teachers who are helping our children become critical thinkers. Children are not sheep - educators do not "indoctrinate" or "pour" information into children as though they are empty vessels. Providing information and various perspectives should not be interpreted as a threat, but an opportunity fort students to engage with new ideas, ask questions of others and themselves, and make arguments based on facts and clear rational thought. Knowledge is power. Shielding children from knowledge doen't empower them.

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  12. Actually, Bob Peterson's opening statement was about organizing to advocate publicly for better gun control regulations. It was not about organizing students in classrooms. The UK and Australia both organized after gun atrocities and it seems that now is our time to step forward.

    Having said that, anything that we do in the classroom is a powerful statement to our students about how responsible adults think it best to care for and protect them. If we do nothing, if we try to counsel or advise them, if we let them know what we think but let them make up their own minds. I believe that it is a mistake to assume that doing nothing is a neutral statement.

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