I wanted to share a recent post I wrote for Common Dreams, a progressive news site. Here are a couple excerpts:
Imagine our surprise when ten minutes after the presentation we found out that the second one was canceled. The principal – who’d come in a few times during my presentation but wasn’t able to attend the entire talk – felt it was too political and called ahead to stop me from speaking at any other school that day….
Was my talk political? Only if by political we mean that it ultimately had relevance to governance. It was certainly not partisan, and it’s preposterous (and worrisome) to suggest that words like “war,” “healthcare,” and “illegal immigrants” cannot be uttered in schools. What that implies about the learning that is permitted in school is frighteningly 1984-esque.
Was my talk controversial? It shouldn’t have been, but even if some thought it was, we should welcome controversial topics in school. What better place to grapple with differing ideas? If students cannot uncover and discover truths in school and explore systems in an effort to become not only better educated about the realities behind our choices but also gain the power to be conscientious choicemakers and future changemakers through their careers and professions, then what are we hoping to achieve through schooling?…
I do not blame this principal, though. He faces stresses and challenges in his job that I not only don’t know about, but can only imagine make his work as an educational leader difficult. We live in an educational climate that is terrified of controversy, making schooling blander with each passing year, and depriving our children of the critical and creative thinking skills they need to face a challenging and uncertain future. Despite all the evidence that shows that discussing controversial issues in school leads to greater educational achievement, skill, and learning, we shy away from the issues that may be most important and relevant to our children’s future.
For a humane world,