We’re living through history right now. This month’s post was originally about graduation season, but instead I’d like to talk about the role of schools and colleges in civic engagement. They help us learn how we fit into history, to listen and engage with other points of view, and to critically digest information – all of which helps us find a way forward.
We’ve all heard the urgent call for justice and equity following the death of George Floyd. Citizens around the country and the world have come out to demonstrate, petition for change, or at least privately consider this moment in history and what should come next.
Schools as a Forum
While people are doing significant work to educate themselves, evidenced by spikes in sales of anti-racism books, schools and colleges are a forum for students to ask questions and find context. The same goes for staff and faculty, many of whom join professional development seminars such as Diversity & Inclusion.
In Nashua, district Superintendent Dr. Jahmal Mosely shared a heartfelt letter with the community responding to vandalism at Nashua High School North and the ongoing protests:
I know that WE, as a community will come together and engage in difficult, honest, and productive conversations about race relationships and policing. As superintendent, I will continue to ensure that these conversations stay alive in our schools and community.
As Dr. Mosely said, schools give space for hard conversations. Because it’s okay to not know the answers if we can listen and learn. It takes continuous work to acknowledge our blind spots and keep an open mind.
Many of us have practiced this in classroom debates, and philosophy and logic classes. And, from dedicated teachers who taught us the value of rewrites and edits when they knew we could do better. We learn how to learn, and to accept feedback and criticism. And we take that skill with us outside the classroom.
School Leadership in the Community
More than 1,200 turned out for the Nashua Vigil for Black Lives at Greeley Park June 6, just one of many demonstrations in New Hampshire since Memorial Day. Nashua’s event had teachers, staff, students, professors, and school board members along with the city and state leadership.
The Greater Nashua Area Branch NAACP and the new Nashua chapter of Black Lives Matter led the vigil, featuring activists, community leaders, and students as young as 14 sharing their experiences and advocating for a better future. The vigil was a peaceful and supportive space. As if in a classroom of 1,200, non-black attendees were invited to learn from voices that need to be heard.