A joint statement from MEMSPA (the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association) and the Center for Educational Improvement
John Lewis wrote shortly before his death, “ Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.” Yesterday, we were stunned with a sense of an unbelievable horror and dread as we watched events play out in our nation’s capitol. This morning, we are still reeling with the surreal images of the mob that gathered on its steps, pushing their way through barricades and disrupting our democratic process. These are images reminiscent of an attempted coup and dictatorship in countries void of rule of law and freedom. We are also thankful for the many Senators and Representatives in the Congress who upheld our democracy in the votes they cast into the wee hours of the morning. And, as educators, we are weary of the seemingly unending streak of trauma we experienced in 2020. A streak that is shadowing us as we enter the first days of 2021.
There are so many lessons to be learned from the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Certainly, one of them is that we cannot, indeed must not, take our democracy for granted. There is a fragile balance between individual liberty and the collective agreements that were so carefully crafted with our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. There are lessons in decency, in regard for others, and in protecting the right for each of our votes to be counted. There are lessons on accountability: what we expect from our leaders and from each other.
Today we are weary. The air is filled with a sense of sadness and we are grieving for the illusion of our security—the security of being in a country that values freedom, that cares for our neighbors, that upholds justice. We know also that our vision for changes that are needed in education is impacted by the armed thugs who so recklessly cast aside any sense of compassion or caring for America in the late afternoon on January 6.
Today, we will grieve. America has lost a little more of its innocence. Today, we also call on all of us to lift up our youth and our teachers. Children need reassurance that they are safe. We cannot assume that democracy will prevail—not without intentional efforts to support and protect it. We can fortify our democracy by ensuring that civics lessons help all of our students understand our system of government and our role as citizens. We must work towards strengthening our country, our regard for each other, and our knowledge and understanding of how we can restore justice, equity, decency, and the unity that is foundational to our lives and our future. Let us now seek peace and understanding.
Here are some resources educators can use to help students discuss this act of injustice, so that we may all learn and heal together:
Paul Liabenow, CEI President and Executive Director of MEMSPA Christine Mason, Ph.D, CEI Executive Director