It's Time to Teach Resistance

After Trump's election, I was shaken. Even though I knew the reality for people of color and indigenous people has been one of systemic oppression for some time, I couldn't help feel a sense of new and deep despair. Eventually, I connected with a small community of educators to create an Inauguration Day Teach-In Toolkit. We called ourselves #TeachResistance.

It is now 517 days since Trump was inaugurated. Slowly, but surely, it seems as if our worst fears are coming true. The atrocities are too many to name. Muslim bans. Charlottesville. Internment camps for children.

This past week has been demoralizing and heartbreaking. And I know that this is precisely the time that we need to find our resolve to fight back even harder.

What also comes to mind, as the allusions to Nazism grow harder to dismiss, is the necessity of teaching resistance. For some time I felt that teaching resistance meant discussing current events, even the ones that might not seem "age appropriate". I thought it meant being willing to name whiteness, white supremacy, and other systems of oppression in the larger world, and within my classroom. I thought it meant giving kids chances to practice activism.

I still feel that all this is true. Children deserve to be listened to and supported, especially when the world becomes scary. Children need to understand the systems in place that hurt them and others who are not like them.

As Trump seems to be transitioning to full-on authoritarianism, teaching resistance will require another role. I think it requires all of the work I described above, but with a sharper point. I also think it's vital that we step into this role, before we lose our ability to do so. I envision this work requiring at least three parts.

1) Teachers must call out Trump and those that enable him unequivocally. In some ways this may have been easier to do when he was a candidate, but it's just as necessary now.
2) Teachers must also help young people of all ages learn how to stay safe and fight back against authoritarianism in particular.
3) Teachers must build their power and use it to fight back. We must work within our unions, across state lines, and with other organizations.

In some ways, none of these actions are new. Not for me, and certainly not for more radical teachers and/or teachers of color. But we are at a new place of urgency.

It is not enough for smaller groups of teachers to do this work. It is not enough for the New York Collective of Radical Educators and Teachers 4 Social Justice of this country to do this work. It is time for everyone with a conscious to exercise it. We have left the realm of the hypothetical, "What would you do if you were teaching when..." We are teaching in that time. What will we do about it?


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