All We Are Saying, Is Give Peas a Chance
By Charles Sosnik
Not so common wisdom from the cheap seats
Ev’rybody’s talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
–John Winston Lennon
Some very wise people that I know all have the same saying – never let a good crisis go to waste. So, it occurs to me that we have an opportunity for a teaching moment (or two) as we turn our eyes towards Afghanistan this week.
But before we find our teaching moment, let’s take a moment to center ourselves and decide which face we will present to our students as they come back to school, in some cases after being gone a very long time. That is especially true knowing that our awareness of time passing is directly proportional to the amount of time we have been on this Earth. So, to me, at age 60 (ish), a year and a half seems like no big deal. Eighteen months, you blink and you miss it. However, if I were six, eighteen months would be roughly a third of my life – a very long time to my sense of passing time.
I mention this to help us realize what is going on in the minds of our students. Many have been out of school as long as they have been in; for many, it is a substantial chunk of their lives. So, take it slow. There will be a lot of uneasiness, fear and uncertainty. Ease them back in and realize that this is going to feel new to many of them.
But back to Afghanistan. There have been complications in our nation’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, and your students will, no doubt, have questions. What will you say to them? This of course depends on their age, but try to keep it related to the facts. If you can, put it in historical perspective. Our country paid a great price in blood and treasure, and when discussing with children, do your best to reframe from political opinions. Ask questions to see what they understand. Ask them if they know any other countries where we have troops deployed. Explain why we do so. Ask them if they have family members in the military. Keep the discussion as positive as you can. Either offer support for our military or move the discussion more towards historical events. It is very important that you don’t speak in a negative way about our military families or military strategy. It is fine to have those discussions among adults but is never appropriate to do so with your students. And because it is an emotional subject, we always need to be careful what we say. The last thing you would ever want to do is cast a negative light on our military (or police or first responders) when your students could have parents or other family members involved.
And besides, a spot of positivity never hurt anyone. Political conversations seem to have changed quite a bit since I was in school. Of course, that was a long time ago and the whole world has changed. But I remember it being quite a bit nicer, even during some very tumultuous times. During the Watergate hearings in the 70s, we used to come home from school and turn on the TV to watch our daily dose of political theatre. Senator Sam from North Carolina would question his victims in a slow southern drawl, and generally make them look like imbeciles. But then, everyone would go have a beer together. There were political divisions, but everyone still liked and respected each other. You could attack the position, but you would never attack the person.
Maybe one of the reasons things have changed so much is we don’t teach Civics the way we used to. We seem to be so hell-bent to point out every mistake in our history that we forget to teach all the great things about our history and our country.
Ask your students who the government is and see what they say. How many of them will say, we are the government? Do they know what a representative government is? Do they know how laws are made? Do they know that you and I, through our voice in the city council or state legislature or Congress, make the laws? And we follow those laws because we talked about them, wrote them and agreed to enact them? We did. You and I. It is a concept that was created some 250 years ago by some very enlightened folks. Nothing like America had ever existed before. So they invented it out of thin air. And for all those 250 years (or so), we have been the envy of the world.
Do we only talk about our problems with our learners, or do we talk about our blessings? Do we take a moment to share with our students just how fortunate we are? Last year when we were marching in the streets, did we stop and consider how wonderful it is that we have that right? Yep, we have rights. A whole slew of them. Until this country was created, no one had ever considered defining the rights of the citizenry. It’s all part of the wonderful, fantastic, shared heritage that we have. On that fateful day, September 17, 1787, 39 delegates signed a little document that would chart the course for liberty, freedom and quality of life for a new world to come.
And as they say, the rest is history.
Talk about a teaching moment.
About the author
Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel. An EP3 Education Fellow, he uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. Charles is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including the Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, EdTech Digest and edCircuit. Unabashedly Southern, Charles likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.