A little over three years ago, I got into some trouble with the Tea Party. Of course, I had no idea at the time; I wasn’t on Twitter yet. But I guess someone took issue with an idea I shouted out to a few thousand teachers at the 2013 Education Minnesota Fall Conference: teachers are American democracy’s last line of defense against the tyranny of the one percent. The hate chatter got pretty ugly until President Obama saved my neck a week after the speech by distracting the haters with his remarks on the Affordable Care Act.
That teachers hold up Lady Liberty and all she stands for still seems to me like a given fact, and I still don’t understand why anyone would be upset by such a comment. The audacious endeavor of public education pre-supposes that (1) all humans are born as equals and (2) the public should band together to freely provide the education young humans need to live worthwhile and dignified lives. This beautiful American promise – the American dream, really: the idea that anyone from anywhere can grow up to be anything – defies the social stratification that inevitably flows from extreme wealth and extreme wealth gaps.
Teachers hold our schools together. Our volunteer hours, dollars, and love keep the American dream alive. Our constant modeling of positive morality paves the road for development of social and emotional skills that are key influencers of students’ livelong well being. Now more than ever, our students need us to be defenders of democracy. Tomorrow will be the first day I see my students – many from immigrant and refugee families – after President Trump closed our nation to the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” How will I welcome them? How will I keep them safe? How will I “lift my lamp beside the golden door”? As teachers, we must find answers to these questions. The onslaught on public education has only begun. While we search together, here is my lesson for tomorrow’s homeroom meeting. Homeroom Lesson: The Human Family