By Carla Silver, Executive Director
What does the government shutdown about a border wall have to do with school and education?
Nothing. And everything. Both.
The two things feel seemingly disconnected on the surface. But today as I went through TSA, I couldn’t help but think that tomorrow, none of the people running the machines would be getting paychecks. Many of them have families and children who go to school. The stress of having an unpaid worker in your home is bound to be palpable. And yet, those kids, as well as all the children of government employees impacted by the shutdown are going to school today. That stress is going show up somewhere.
I’m curious to know how many schools - especially middle and high schools - are actually talking about the government shutdown and the border situation with their students. I think that if they aren’t, they should be ashamed of themselves - for so many reasons. The situation at the border is a relevant, contemporary political and social issue that is complex and worth learning about. It’s definitely more important to be talking about today than why Atticus Finch is courageous or the details of the rise of Jacksonian Democracy or the quadratic equation. All of which are worth talking about at some point. But today, or at least some time this week, somebody needs to engage my children in a conversation about the border and the shutdown.
Are our schools brave enough to have these conversations when they are so deeply political and partisan lines are drawn by many of the families in our schools? But amidst all of the bluster and drama, there are really interesting facts - truths - about what is happening at the border, and the government shutdown itself is a civics lesson unfolding before our eyes. If we don’t have the courage to have these conversations in school with our students and to model civil discourse, how will we ever break out of the cycle we are in right now? Of course, bravery and politics are not the only obstacles to talking about this important moment. I wonder how many teachers are saying to themselves today, “I would talk about the border situation and the shutdown, but it’s not really relevant to my class, and I have so much material to get through today.”
If we aren’t talking about the situation at the border with our students, what is the purpose of school and education anyhow?