Disturbing Times Provide Teachable Moments

Unions

Jacksonville Free Press | Admin | June 22, 2020

by Fed Ingram / President, Florida Education Association – What should you say to the people in your life during the disturbing times of this pandemic?

What do you say when you are angry and frustrated at the police killing of George Floyd? When you are stunned at President Trump’s refusal to unite a grieving nation?

Some people take it all in and say nothing while others want to scream. I believe we should talk and we should teach.

Events shape each generation. This pivotal moment will shape the lives of “Generation-Z,” (born between 1997 and 2009), and Generation-Alpha (born after 2010).

Our youngest Americans belong to the potentially most educated, most diverse, and most at-risk generations in modern times.  Their K-12 schooling has been interrupted and their college education remains uncertain.  We must turn this crisis into a moment to help Black youth and educate others.

Talk about the history of African Americans. From slavery, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and the Obama years, we have fought to open doors and break down barriers.  The recent protests are another step on that long journey.  African American history should not be confined to a few days in February.  This online collection at the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a good place to start.

Provide resources to local schools. Students from all backgrounds should be exposed to stories about African Americans and our entire diverse population. Here’s a sample list of books on Black heroes and historical figures you can donate  to local libraries or classrooms.

Encourage African American students, who are too often limited by unfair stereotypes about what they can and can’t achieve. Watch this video of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s experience growing up to understand why we need to be cheerleaders for academics.

Encourage African Americans to become teachers.  We have serious teacher shortages in Florida and around the nation, and the number of minority students who want to teach is dropping sharply. Let’s inspire young African Americans to choose teaching, so they can be role models for Black students and help open the minds of others.

Speak out against inequality and injustice. I’ve been heartened by images of young white people marching alongside African Americans. Business, education, and labor leaders, along with clergy have lent their support. Even military leaders are speaking out.  All of us, from all walks of life, have a role to play.  Let’s keep it up.

Our vote is our voice.  Vote this fall –early if possible.  This crazy time is no time to sit on the sidelines.  Register to vote, apply to vote-by-mail and vote early to ensure your ballot is counted.  We can remove those who hold the levers of power and gain fresh leadership for the challenges this turbulent year has exposed.

The Zoomers and Generation-Alpha are depending on us.  As Thurgood Marshall said:  “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.”  He could have added, “Teach it.”

Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, represents 145,000 teachers and school employees. A music educator, he was Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year in 2006.