Centering on Students Is Our Twenty-first Century Vision

 Joan Edwards, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency

At the dawn of a new year, I imagine that I join others in reflecting on what this time of renewal offers us. I am not focused on committing to a new exercise regimen or a new self-care plan. Instead, I have given great thought to how to address what ails us as a society. We need to focus on the needs of our children. Seeing them as our North Star will bring us clarity on how to educate them for the present that they are facing and the future that lies ahead of them.

With the onslaught of hatred and violence streaming in the news cycle and the way that incidents of hatred and bias show up in the online and real-time lives of students, I ask us adults to commit to:

•Highlighting how systems of oppression still persist today. All students need to learn how those systems operate today in their daily lives.

•Letting students of color know that they are not an advertisement or representation of our equity goals. Neither are they required to teach us about how to achieve full inclusion in schools. They are young souls who deserve to be loved as people with the full spectrum of skills, needs, and dreams that are assumed of white students.

•Teaching white students how white supremacy robs them of their humanity every time they say, think or feel that they are superior because of their race.

•Refraining from teaching boys and men that women and girls are primarily sexual beings with no ability to lead.

•Teaching all students that people from the Asian diaspora are neither the “in between” people, nor perpetual foreigners. They have a history and present that is a salient part of the current discourse about race and class in this country.

•Refraining from teaching that white people are the involuntary perpetrators and that Black, Indigenous and People of Color were only the unfortunate victims of enslavement and genocide.

•Telling all children the truth about the founding of the United States with all of its contradictions, ugliness, and beauty. 

This is a call to action I share as an educator and a parent. I’m not calling us out. I am calling all of us adults in — into this work of raising our children honestly and with the respect they deserve.

Raising the future is challenging and often scary work but it is not impossible. Before we can effectively commit to and live out these promises for 2020, we adults need to do our own learning and unlearning.

We need to clearly see for ourselves how white supremacy, heterosexism, ableism, sexism, and classist thinking have clouded and continue to cloud our vision and therefore our teaching. Let’s promise that in 2020 we will “get our learning on.

Leave a Reply