The year 2017 will likely be the year of reading, writing, arithmetic and reconciliation, adding a fourth “R” to the responsibilities of our schools.
With the Brexit vote in England, the presidential election in the United States and the recent election outcomes in Austria and Italy, it is clear that 2016 has been polarizing to say the least.
Moving forward, how can educators encourage reasonable debate and compromise, protect responsible dissent and find the common ground when the world seems so divided?
This challenge is not about politics or ideology or about who is right and who is wrong, but about making the world work. And there is no better place than our colleges and schools to address the issue.
One consequence to the growing divergence and hardening of political opinions is the rise in bigotry and harassment reflected in social media, threatening graffiti, property damage and assaults on every minority that has been marginalized by the current political discourse sweeping the globe.
As we look ahead, it will be our responsibility as educators to renew society’s commitment to fostering an environment where students of all backgrounds feel safe and supported so they can focus on learning without fear. It is our role to mitigate the worldview, which has often been scary, and not allow it to be reflected in our classrooms and on our campuses.
Fortunately, we have the resources to do it.
Middle States schools have in place the policies, procedures and programs to promote awareness, to manage crises and to respond to issues related to the social and emotional well being of both students and staff. They have robust counseling and student services available that are designed to be responsive and proactive. They have supportive programs in their classrooms to diffuse conflict, encourage resolution, discourage violence and bullying, and to promote mental health.
Our expertise and the resources we have at our disposal should make every college and school a place where students find understanding and learn to responsibly manage their differences; places where they learn to debate and dissent, and find common ground and grow together despite their differences.
We need to deliver now more than ever on our collective mission to develop responsible citizens. The future depends on it. Our students today are tomorrow’s leaders.
Henry G. Cram, Ed.D