January 6, 2021: Today’s Events Must Be Discussed in Every Classroom
What happened today at the Capitol in D.C. cannot, and should not, be avoided by teachers
This evening, a teacher friend of mine texted me about the situation that exploded in Washington, D.C. today. She said, “Really struggling to think through how to talk with students about what happened in D.C. today. How does one even begin to talk about such a thing?”
I used to be an Early U.S. History teacher for 8th graders at a middle school just down the street from my home. I took a leave of absence this year and saw many of the questions I posed and topics we explored in my classes come to life over the summer. In class, we had talked about slavery, racism in the United States then and now, the KKK as a terrorist group, white supremacists, the utter failures of Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement. We talked about Jefferson’s hypocrisy, Westward Expansion, genocide of Native Americans, the Indian Removal Act, the Trail of Tears, reservations, massacres. We talked about the Civil War, secession, and monuments that at that time — in early March of 2020 — still stood. So much has changed in America this year. The statues are coming down. The Land ‘O Lakes girl is gone from the butter package. And white supremacists took off their hoods and instead picked up flags. The history I taught and that we discussed as a class came back to life like Frankenstein’s monster.
And now, there’s what happened today. Today, in Washington, D.C., an angry, armed mob of white people (mostly men) forced their way into the Capitol Building, the People’s House, brandishing weapons, destroying property, and making threats against our government and elected officials. And who is to blame for inciting the mob? We all know that answer. But how does a teacher begin to discuss such a hotbed topic, which must be discussed, without being vilified by parents who defend such a president’s vile actions?
Last year, when I was in the classroom, I did not shy away from sensitive topics. Maybe it’s my age. I’m 41 now, and I care a hell of a lot less what any administrator or parent is going to tell me about complaints. Maybe it’s that I don’t care if they fire me. Maybe it’s that I’m just tired of not talking about the things we should absolutely be talking about. Forget…