The weekend after Sandy Hook (see my brief thoughts here) I began thinking of ways to access the topic in different and more effective methods for my classes. They had left on that Friday not knowing what had happened. Of course, all of the teachers knew immediately or the knowledge trickled from room to room throughout the day. But I knew that once the school day ended, we could no longer control what the students saw or heard on the matter. They would be returned into our hands on Monday with varying knowledge of the horrific event and all the details the media so desperately wanted them to know.
Now, middle schoolers should be knowledgeable. They should know and should be discussing current events. They should know the truths going on and how they fit into the reality of the world in which they live. Nobody is looking to censor truth.
However, I got to thinking, as we all did in the wake of the media frenzy that was post-Sandy Hook, how to balance out the horrors of that one day (horrors replayed with graphical finesse and enthusiastic salivating) with the good that happens in life everyday. After all, if all students see are the horrors, than the more desensitized they are to tragedy in general. So I began to wonder if, come Monday, we shouldn’t be focusing on other truths in the world, other honest images and events. I began focusing on the good.
I began showing them the memes that were floating around. Things like…
* Terry Jones in Time Square drowned out by an impromptu Beatles song – (This one I found too late to show them, but I thought I’d pass it on here.)
On Friday, before break, I also challenged them to the Ann Curry challenge. This is the one that asks us all to add to a culture of kindness by doing good deeds for others. It’s like a Pay It Forward challenge. The thought is also that once one does something good purposefully, then perhaps it one day comes naturally. The only way to battle evil, to battle tragedy, is to learn from it and drown out the unnecessary frenzy with good.
But then I looked around at the, dare I say, greater tragedy. The tragedy of an R-rated civilization that is stealing the youth of its own children. I looked at the gun leveled at my 6 year old’s face, not from a real shooter, but from movie ad on the side of the bus next to our car, eye-level with his car seat. I thought about the corpses at Halloween hanging from the ceiling of our local grocery store. I thought about the shopping bags students bring into the classroom, like ones from Abercrombie with their semi-nude David-esque models.
For many children, it’s unavoidable. They can’t go to school without seeing a tricked out weapon on a video game ad. They can’t walk through a mall at Christmas without seeing sexy elf costumes. They can’t walk through their own living rooms or go into a local store without being attacked by the horrors highlighted by the media. Does that not affect our children, our students, and members of our own future citizenry?
So should battling the R-rated nature of society be a part of our curriculum? After all, in our classrooms we battle:
* Illiteracy when there may not be books in the homes
* Digital citizenship when there may not be computers
* Civil rights issues when homes may speak of hate
So, if our mission is to educate all and to educate them in such a way as to create functioning citizens in our society, and if society is not taking its own responsibility to teach its own children, than should we not, as an educational system, go to battle? Should we not battle the smog of horrors that surrounds our kids by teaching the good as well? Should we not create a balance where there seems so little outside our walls?
I can hear the arguments now. Dousing children in good need not be about teaching religion. It need not be about lying to students to create a Pollyanna sense of security about the world. It’s about introducing them to a more balanced reality, one that in a targeted manner presents both sides of the coin when society is neglecting to do so.
It’s about addressing their brain’s development, their heart’s development, their ability to feel empathy, their ability to make ethical decisions. It’s about believing in the good. Not the good of a fairy tale, but the good that surrounds us daily.
So as you ring in the New Year, hold your families tight. Eat until you have to unbutton your pants. Keep the tree decorated as long as you can. Sleep during the day. Remember the good.