Letter: Public should support educators in job of guiding students

Graphic by Lori Deaton

“Is school enough?” Do our schools create vigorous, compassionate, loving people participating in our democratic society — sharing, healing our wounds, accepting and forgiving each other?

One might also ask, “Is economic, military power and wealth enough to unite our country and bring peace and prosperity, bringing us together in a truly United States of America?” Despite gaining the world of wealth and military supremacy, our country is troubled, measured by political stagnation, violence and polarization.

The Mountain Xpress article regarding critical race theory is important in regard to the values of our society [“Menace or Red Meat? Critical Race Theory Debate Comes to Buncombe,” July 21, Xpress]. Pauline Orban’s worry about schools’ handling racism is important. However, framing the term as “racism” is misleading. Perhaps it’s unintentional, but conservatives make this a political, not educational issue. I prefer to trust educators, psychologists and those who have devoted their lives to childhood development.

And, I respectfully disagree with the Erwin High School teacher’s statement, “I always smile and provide the exact same answer for the past 16 years: ‘It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what you think.’” Ouch!

We can and must provide students the opportunity to explore through Socratic-type discussions, brainstorming, personal journaling and creativity coupled with the arts, such as music, dancing and storytelling as well as visual arts. Educators have a duty to educate and guide students. It’s no easy task and deserves public support.

By Socratic discussions, I do not mean debates. It is exploring questions and problems and “practicing how to respond” respectfully to each other and be open to understanding other points of views. Thus, the goal is a win-win climate that learns from our differences.

Adults would also do well in practicing how to respond rather than simply defend our own partial truths. I am very positive about this because I have met so many thoughtful and sincere people, including our local youths, who are struggling with compassion, empathy and kindness to make our small corner of the world a better place. Teachers or home-schoolers who want to know more about this can contact me: esacco189@gmail.com.

I taught 29 years in our public schools. I constantly expressed my opinions regarding matters of prejudice, respect for others, our responsibilities to each other and the common good demanded by a democratic society. This requires the human pursuit in something far bigger than stated in “The Rules from Raleigh.” We must reframe our stories that have led us to the place we are right now. We must gather our courage and learn from the evidence of our failures. It is hard work and takes practice.

The Republican and wealthy elites have made this a political problem rather than a humanitarian attempt to support families in their struggle for jobs and raising children. The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, actually wrote a letter to the Education Department in effect suggesting that we do not tell the truth to our children. (This was reported on television news and the internet.) Would you not want our nation to “form a more perfect union” by educating our children in American history? “The Constitution was framed in order to form a more perfect union, not to establish mass confusion.”

It is a sign of health and courage to want to include and integrate what is hard, uncomfortable and deeply painful. I have faith that our students can handle this when done with loving, compassionate care. As Reid Chapman, UNCA instructor said, “I don’t see any place for limiting those conversations within a freedom-loving democracy.”

Once again, I suggest reading Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen From the Heart, by Hamilton, Wilson and Loh. They point to a more inclusive perspective that is equally friendly to all parties as they express their partial truths. And a powerful and revealing book: The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James H. Cone, a hopeful reflection on our collective history. Also food for the soul: Revolutionary Love, by Rabbi Michael Lerner, and Eager to Love, by Franciscan Richard Rohr. They both provide spiritual, emerging religious values that challenge our traditional, conventional thinking.

My experience in San Diego: I had the good fortune to experience various teaching assignments from third grade through high school in regular classrooms and eventually in special education, often with seriously emotionally disturbed children. I ended my career teaching gifted classes and retired in 1996. I feel blessed to have discovered this area for  my retirement years.

— Ed Sacco



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