We are living in a period of unrest, mistrust, and ignorance. We are also dealing with dogmatic groups of various types who are using social media, state and local policies, and threats to get and keep power, fairly or not. In short, it’s a time for all democracy-loving people to accept that conventions of politeness and just doing what you’re told as a teacher are over. If we want to keep some semblance of fairness, caring, and even safety in this country, we need to do what we can to ensure it. It’s time to resist.
Teachers need to be mindful of some problems that work against us:
- Educators and students are being required to work in unsafe conditions, thanks to misinformation about the Coronavirus.
- Teachers are being manipulated into avoiding topics that might encourage large-scale change that would result in greater equity of the nation’s resources, such as critical race theory or, to put it more accurately, American history.
- The overuse of standardized testing and curricula aimed at improving test scores has focused students and teachers on factoids and information gathering to the neglect of big-picture thinking and problem-solving.
- Humanities subjects, even when they are still allowed to exist, are not being supported appropriately and are increasingly seen as optional, while technical knowledge–the kind that produces capable employees but not critical citizens–is treated as the only kind of education that matters. There are powerful groups of people trying to disenfranchise voters of color across the country.
- People of color continue to suffer from redlining, disparities in loan rates, fewer job opportunities, poor healthcare, and more.
- White people in poverty are suffering from neglect and are actively being encouraged to vote against their own interests.
- There are middle-class people who are burying their heads in the sand, pretending that everything is okay.
In his Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman argued in the early 1970s that teachers have a responsibility to do right by their students regardless of their orders. It’s time for us all to reach back to the activist nature of education and ensure our students are getting the education they need to create a positive future for themselves and their children.
2021-2022 must be a year of resistance for educators. We will teach our students the content and skills they need no matter what we are told to do. This is our job as educators. No one will stop us.
Now is the time to gather like-minded colleagues and being to plan ways to undermine a system that is often working against the very young people its supposedly intended to serve. If you’re already resisting, do your best to bring others into the fold. Share methods and create networks. Be co-conspirators with students when it’s the right thing to do.
The future depends on us all.