“You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye,
Teach your children well,.”
(music & lyrics by Graham Nash,1970)
ONE SONG, Sean & Natalie of #edbeat challenged us. Pick one song that personifies your hope for the New Year or personal philosophy. Sure, easy!!! I thought about Bob Marley’s “Stand Up” or Sly Stone’s’ “Stand” But they felt forced, great songs but…. Then it hit me. Going back to High School, CSN&Y’s “Teach Your Children.” After all, isn’t that our charge from parents and our school system? Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing? Teaching our children well. Yea, but teaching them what? My course of instruction is U.S. History, and I have a curriculum, but am I just cramming facts into their heads? Is that teaching my children well? And, to what end? I tell them: facts are facts and they are important, but you can always look them up.
What I want to teach them is how to reason, how to think, the ability to read and understand the content and context, and how to connect the dots, as it were. Most importantly, I want to show them how to form and express an opinion of their own. I want them to self-advocate. My goal is to prepare them to be full participants in their own future. To do that they cannot be passive bystanders in life. They must learn how to question. But, are schools teaching our students the skills needed for that? Are we encouraging them to speak up for themselves and others who need a voice? I was listening to Greg Curran’s (@GregBCurran) podcast Pushing the Edge, and his guest Christina Torres (@biblio_phile) was talking about “polite advocacy”, and how we as teachers often want our students to question things, but not us. We want them to mirror our values and ideals ( myself included). But, the real goal should be for them to advocate with a purpose and goal. They should question things they don’t understand, or they believe are wrong. Teach them it’s OK to question why are we learning this? In my History Class I believe to be a productive citizen for change they need to understand how the system works and how it came to be. By studying history they will gain an understanding of how they may use their voice in the future.
Obviously, within a classroom, it must be done reasonably and respectfully, but still they should question and speak out. In history class facts run rampant, but put them in context. I can say Washington was the first president and that’s a fact. If I say he was the greatest president, well now you can argue. But, learn how to formulate an opinion as to why. Ow, he was a slave owner! He was a cold unfriendly person: that you can debate. I want my students to disagree with me, but to be effective I must teach them how to be successful in advocating, as well as how to prepare for not succeeding all the time. And, that it’s OK to fail, but to learn from it and to keep going.
I use the curriculum of history to illustrate the tools they need to spot injustices, learn to question, learn when it’s OK to not be polite, and when to speak up for themselves and to right wrongs. Just teaching them facts means little if they can’t put them into a perspective that makes them relevant. What good does exposing them to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s if they can’t use that to change the current climate of division in today’s society. Is Taxation without representation just a stuffy old hollow phrase if they can’t apply it to the government they want in the future?Do the lessons of the mistreatment of Native American fail if the students don’t know how to stop bullying of LGBT in their own school?
It starts in the classroom and expands out to their lives both now and in the future. In a world AG ( after Google) learning dates, names and places is easy, we can get information instantly . My job (our job) is to give students a broader platform to affect change for themselves and for their future. If I can do that, then I have taught my children well!