“As Americans welcomed the new year with relief at the close of a contentious election and anticipation that the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine signaled a longed-for return to normal life, we were utterly shocked and our optimism shattered by the events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol this week.
The attack of the angry mob that stormed the country’s most revered institution and disrupted Congress as it sought to finally resolve a national election will be remembered as a sad chapter in American history. The brazen and disturbing assault on our democracy has shaken Americans to their very core and raised serious questions about the health of our democratic system.
The rioters’ disrespectful and dangerous display is a striking contrast to the important work educators strive to do each day to teach students about the sacred democratic principles that define this country–principles that include respect and lawfulness. The attempt to overthrow a free and fair election, as determined by multiple courts, and discard the will of the people who voted in the election, is unacceptable and a damaging example to young learners. Many were left troubled and turning to teachers and parents for explanations of the frightening events of January 6.
My hope is that teachers and all responsible adults will use this tragedy as a teachable moment to help students understand how our democracy works and how easily it can be threatened when the hunger for power overshadows principled and ethical behavior and decision-making. To the extent this event prompts frank conversations as a community about fairness, racism, public service and the impact of decisions, we may find a silver lining in this dangerous moment.
As work proceeds to recover from this debacle, there are many challenges ahead. Perhaps one of the most crucial is taking the time to show students the real meaning of patriotism and to demonstrate how to heal, rebuild, and come together for the greater good.”