Schools as Healers

By Dr. Linda Marrs-Morford, IPLI Director

ILinda Blogt is an interesting time in our nation’s history.  Personally, I’ve never seen our country more divided than now, and I grew up in the 60s!  Listening to the national rhetoric, it is easy for educators to lose their sense of efficacy.  But, we do make a difference; just ask anyone to talk about his or her favorite teacher.

During this time of distrust of the media, the politicians, and each other, I would like to challenge schools to be the healers.  Schools are poised to be the healers.  We have a captured audience and the perfect “teachable moment!”  It is an opportunity to have meaningful discussions about respect, democracy, what it means to be a contributing citizen, finding the truth, and how we should treat each other regardless of our political affiliations.

For many years, high school students were required to complete a “civics” class.  Unfortunately, in many states this requirement has been dropped resulting in students not learning about how government works and the knowledge about how to influence government as a citizen.  Many do not understand the tripartite governmental system, the checks and balances in place to ensure no aspect of government has sole authority, and how the ordinary citizen can bring about change.

But it has to be more than a high school civics class.  It has to be a well-developed PK-12 curriculum that incorporates civics, a positive behavior program, and media literacy.   For example, NPR did a feature titled “5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News” (http://n.pr/2kt9iaZ).  In this article, they demonstrate some of the ways teachers help students identify “fake news” in their media literacy lessons.

But why stop at the schoolhouse door? Many schools are the center of their communities.  We have an opportunity to facilitate the healing of our communities.  Schools could sponsor sessions focused on understanding the structure of government, how to influence change, and students could run media literacy sessions helping their parents decipher the truth.  The result – we are one step closer to healing our community.

Two weeks ago we lost a great educator – Dr. Richard DuFour.  Adlai E. Stevenson High School’s website (http://bit.ly/2k4weNx) paid tribute to their former principal.  In that article, they shared a challenge from Dr. DuFour to educators in his last public appearance at Stevenson.  He said, “Will you act with a sense of urgency, as if the very lives of your students depend on your action?  Because in a very literal sense, more so than at any other time in American history, they do.”

It is a time of urgency in our country, and our students and communities need us to help with the healing.  What can your school do?