The phrase, “now more than ever,” is too often overused, almost to the point where it carries little emotional weight and never quite has the impact its author or speaker intended. It has become a halfhearted clarion call and an overwrought declaration of a potential seminal moment that is never fully realized. I have been guilty of using the sentiment myself, usually when talking to fellow educators about the significance of our profession or making the case for continuing our important advocacy work in the policy realm. Given what has transpired in the recent past, and perhaps what is to come, we are reminded of how fundamental education is and of how indispensable we as educators are to our students’ future and to our collective well-being.
We are in the midst of a particularly challenging era in our nation and across the globe. Issues of social injustice, nationalism, xenophobia, terrorism – all connected in so many ways – have risen (again) to coalesce into a zeitgeist characterized by a simmering sense of tension and unpredictability that has no doubt found its way into our classrooms, schools, and communities. As much as we have struggled to comprehend this new normal, imagine the confusion, fear, and growing sense of disillusionment that many of our students are experiencing as the realities of the world become the defining moments of their generation. They have questions, concerns, and justifiable anxiety as they grapple to piece it all together into a coherent, understandable whole.
These past few months and years have been at turns fascinating and dismaying. Myopic allegiance to symbols, signs, and slogans seems to supersede our compassion for each other, our respect for diverse perspectives, and our tolerance and understanding of disparate views and values. Punditry and social media has revealed our propensity to bring us together or tear apart; it has shed further light on the best and worst of humanity. We have become polarized and desensitized. For every story of selflessness, redemption, sacrifice, forgiveness, and the awesome power of good people doing great things, we witness ignorance, intolerance, greed, and hatred being perpetrated and celebrated. The histrionic rhetoric, demagoguery, and sheer lack of factual accuracy have been amplified, feeding into increasing dogmatism and callousness. Those who expel invective, eschew logic, and exude ignorance have dominated the discourse for too long now. We are better than this. We must be better than this.
So, indeed, now more than ever, we as educators must continue to do what we do best. We must intensify our focus on the core values inherent in our schools’ mission statements and the very ideals of education in a democratic society: to cultivate thoughtful, knowledgeable, compassionate individuals who are globally-minded, lifelong learners and responsible, active citizens. It is too important an obligation to take lightly. Whether it is having students engage in meaningful, memorable discourse or taking informed action to increase awareness, fight for a cause, share new learning, or stand up for what is right, we stand at the forefront of the vital work of ensuring our students are prepared for this increasingly confounding world in which we live, with all of its ugliness and enmity alongside unity, graciousness, goodness, and hope. Now more than ever, let’s be certain, that through our steadfast efforts, the latter prevail.