LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I’ve spent all of my educational career teaching a subject that stresses actions have consequences. That you should always consider the costs and the benefits before making decisions in your life. The incident at school reminded me that we don’t always act rationally. One of my college professors gave me a piece of advice that I will always remember. It went something like… you should never get in a fight with a pig because everyone comes out covered in mud. Many students are learning that lesson. Their reputations have been muddied, many look foolish, and now they are left trying to wipe the mud off their faces.
I’ve heard many say “I didn’t do anything” or “Don’t blame me for the actions of a FEW others.” True, it may not be your fault, but you still look foolish. You associated with a group that now is ashamed. Paris Hilton and Snookie prove that many people will act foolishly when a camera is pointed at them. And the more people watch that show, the more people keep watching and recording and laughing at the incredibly irresponsible actions of others, the more encouragement we give them.
This weekend I and many other teachers, students, and parents will be asked why we choose to attend and work at this school. It’s because I believe in something much more powerful than ignorance or an unruly group of protestors. I believe that learning is the best ticket out of a life of anger and loathing. If my students really want to make their own rules, to be their own boss, they first need to learn skills that make them a valuable employee. If they gain that knowledge, then they can decide to quit their job if their boss is overbearing, and they will easily find a new one. That’s why I teach, to give students that knowledge and power in their lives. To get to that place in life, however, all of us need to acknowledge that we always have more to learn, and in the meantime there are a lot of rules we must follow.
I take great pride in making my subject, economics, relevant. Of making sure my students walk out of every class with knowledge that will give them an edge in a global market for skilled labor. It was extremely insulting to hear students scream disapproval of an entire city that has worked so hard, spent countless hours, and spent millions of dollars to support THEIR education. THAT is the scar that we all must work to heal in the coming days.
It isn’t hard to predict that teenagers will forget to think long-term, and that they will act and react emotionally and irrationally. Certainly we all have actions that we regret. I certainly don’t take this protest personally. Because I am confident in the work I do every day for the benefit of every student who I have in my class, and say hi to in the hall.
So what should the majority of other students do now? How can you get up and wipe off this ugliness? How can you show that you are one of the MAJORITY who does not wish to be associated with the now shamed few? Stop standing on the sidelines watching when other students make you look bad. Care when someone drops garbage in your school, stop flooding this school with the foul language that makes people sound angry and ignorant, and call out your fellow students (and support others who call them out) when they act in a way that doesn’t represent the values that are truly WEST BEND. Maybe more importantly, use this weekend to tell the community, your teachers, and your parents that you truly appreciate their efforts to give you some of the greatest opportunities to live a happy and successful life in the world.
In short, be a positive, active majority, and you will succeed in life.
East social studies teacher
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(Image: Matthew Hoffmann in the classroom in April 2014. Photo by Trina La Susa, Current Staff.)