Monday, January 21, 2019

When People Appear to Do Wrong

Social media networks lit up as videos were shared of young men seemingly jeering at an elder Native American man in Washington, D.C.. In the videos, the young men appeared to be disrespectful. Fast and furious comments spread throughout Twitter and other media.

I believe that a culture tired of President Trump's continuous shaming, blaming, name calling, lies, and exaggeration are on edge, and rather than reacting with questioning in the situation, people mostly shared angry comments condemning the boys' behavior--they didn't like what appeared to be disrespect, and they shared that sentiment.

I shared my dismay at what I saw too. As an educator, I would not let my students react that way to an elder or any group that is peacefully protesting. I would ask children to respect the protesters, listen to their words if they wish, and if they disagreed or were bothered by the situation, I would support their respectful words of disagreement or help them to quietly leave the area of discomfort.

Later in the news, one of the young men involved wrote a letter to the public providing his view of the situation. When I read his letter, I was dismayed by the threats his family and he has faced. As a society, we need to react with questioning and respectful disagreement rather than vengeance, threats, and accusations. We have to respect our laws that hold that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. While President Trump often acts with disrespect and accusation, we can't let him lead our country and people in a similar way--we have to promote civil debate and discourse.

I still find it difficult to accept the behavior I saw on the videos, and as an educator I want to make sure that I anticipate what my students may face when I take them on trips and teach them about the respectful behavior that is expected in those situations. For example, we take our students to the city where they will encounter many situations many don't see everyday. We'll discuss those situations prior to our visit. Our students will also visit the theater and see scenes that may be new to them, we'll discuss how they can respectfully respond to those scenes too. Our anticipation and preparation doesn't mean that we won't face problems and we won't need to redirect students who may make a bad choice with the words or gestures they use, but we'll do what we can to make sure we have enough chaperones and oversight to support the best possible behavior and field trip experience overall.

Once when my own children were young, I brought them to a place that was new to them. I hadn't anticipated their words and reactions to the new place. There was a point when I had to pull them aside to educate them about what they were experiencing and how they should react more respectfully. On another occasion I brought my children to a Native American celebration. One of my children was struck by the fact that he was one of the only non Native American there--it was a very good teaching situation. So I know that events such as what happened in DC can happen to our children in new situations. That doesn't make it right, but acknowledges that it can happen, and in the best of circumstances when situations like this occur it's best to meet those situations with greater education that will hopefully lead to greater respect and understanding.  Onward.