The fate of education as a whole is up in the air right now – most of us in the field are pretty aware. We have a great deal of dedicated teachers who are willing to fight for their students, researchers are pushing the need for more support of public schools, and parents are coming together to speak their concerns about the (lack of) government support of the public school system. The culture that has been cultivated existed before the beginning of February, as many people saw a shift in the treatment of marginalized groups of people in education. We have seen this change occurring for some time with increasing cases of bullying based on gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, and many other identities, especially if they do not align with cisgender, wealthy, White, straight men. Students go to school fearful. They are now worried that their parents, or even they themselves, will be deported. They worry that they will be ostracized, or worse, beaten for their religion. They are petrified (and may not be allowed) to use the bathroom that they feel comfortable in – a bathroom where they feel safe.
Adults are worried, too. Many are worried for their children. They are worried about themselves. People continue to disregard the privilege they have to shut off politics for a day, while others are fighting for their rights, their lives. Education is a place where people should feel safe and are offered the opportunity to have conversations – to be encouraged to learn. They should not need to protect themselves and honestly, that’s where I believe educators come into play as well. We have an obligation to protect students, especially those who are children – but all students. We have a right to ensure people are inclusive, they are safe, they are taken care of. We also need to ensure that they have access to education and have the resources to maintain that education. I know many educators who are trying their best to uphold these ideas and philosophies, and we hope that The Dignified Learning Project can help support those efforts.
Many of us are educators ourselves – TAs in college courses, professors, teachers – so we empathize with the balance between personal morals, necessary philosophical foundations, bureaucracy, and the institution as a whole. We need to come together and figure out ways that we can fight against changing policies, fear tactics, and inhumane practices. I know that there are many groups doing this already, organizing, pushing for a collective effort. People are truly coming together to make change and with the introduction of social media and current technology, we can speak with educators across the globe. This is such a fantastic opportunity that we have.
This does not mean that our job is easy and in fact guarantees that we have work to do.
We must, now more than ever before, connect with our students – we must be practicing dialogical education. It is a necessity, right now, to enter each other’s worlds, talk, and understand. We must first and foremost recognize each other as humans, with both similar and different needs, and be willing to adjust ourselves in society to make room for those who are not given the security to address their needs. Many of us have privilege and we must recognize that as well, ensuring that we do not overstep our boundaries and that we are respectful while we are advocating and working as activists.
Education is the perfect opportunity for us to reshape our future through our students, ourselves, and the institution with each individual person. The future of education is up in the air, and as long as we are pushing back, we can show that we can put up one hell of a fight for the sake of our children and their right to education and prevent it from being a place of oppression.