It hits pretty close to home given what's been going on in my school this year. I don't think I wrote about what happened around Halloween, when one of our students came dressed up as a "Mexican," wearing a sombrero, a fake mustache, and some kind of rug, and the administration didn't have a problem with his costume. We have a few Latino kids in the school, we have first and second generation immigrants from all over the world, and we have a pretty substantial number of students who have said things like "illegal aliens should be executed at the border!"
The issue keeps coming up, and it is becoming more and more clear that it's something we need to deal with as a school. Our students come from families that have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and for a lot of them it is a very appealing narrative that "others" are to blame.
But the part that has been giving me the most ulcers is how other staff members have reacted. I've made my peace with the Spanish teacher who thinks there's nothing wrong with gross racial stereotypes - we have agreed to disagree on this point, but at least the students know we respect one another. The big problem is teachers - and ADMINISTRATORS - who have been pushing the problem onto me, because they don't want to be the bad guy.
These problems aren't going away. Just the other day a Latina kid ran out of my class crying after another student said "the Mexicans are taking our jobs!" There's only so much I can do alone, and the kids have stopped listening to me already. I think it's only a matter of time before something terrible happens like what happened in Long Island.
This School of Blogger is just coming up for air after a week of getting grades in, so I finally had a chance to check the School of Blog email account, where I saw that we had been chosen as one of the top 8 education blogs by DreamBox. Thanks for the recognition and the nice write-up!
I would take this a step further and say educators should consider other forms of participation. Voting is just one way to participate; you can also write letters to, or meet with, your elected officials, get involved in local issues you care about, or even run for local office. When your students see you doing these things, they get the message that participation is important, real, necessary, cool, something they might be able to do someday.
Forget that "don't wear political buttons" bullshit. Recently a Federal judge ruled in favor of New York City when it argued that "when a teacher wears a political button in the classroom, it creates an environment of intimidation and hostility toward students who do not share that view." Of course we need to make sure we are not creating that kind of environment in our classrooms. But we have the power to do that, buttons or not. Our politics are always going to make their way into the classroom, no matter how hard we try to stay "neutral." And even with our buttons, we can say, this is my personal view. Here are the other views. Here are the resources whereby you can make your OWN decisions.
I think we MUST wear our buttons. I plan to tell my students that I made 150 phone calls for Al Franken this weekend. But I know, and they know, that I have the kind of classroom where if they tell me they knocked on doors for Michelle Bachmann all weekend, they will get a big smile and an "awesome!" out of me.