By Kirk Clay
“Mercy, mercy me, things ain’t what they used to be.”— Marvin Gaye
Can you believe this past school year ended before June? All it took was a global pandemic and boom. Then protests around the world ignited a movement and has made this summer vacation a teachable moment. I guess the fact that the economy is in lousy shape adds to the dynamics and may prove to be far more significant than we know. These events make this the most momentous summer in recent history and lead parents, teachers, and administrators around the world to consider reevaluating their summer teaching plans.
As this summer kicks into full swing, it is clear that there are several important events that we, as educators, will need to address with students next school year. We may never witness another summer like this again, but this summer will always be with us, and we have to help children make sense of their new world. Remember, emotions, trauma, and memory, like all brain functions, are not isolated to one region of the brain. This function is what makes learning possible, but it can also negatively affect a child’s life experiences if not handled appropriately.
First, we must introduce the concept of “systems change.” Cross-cultural experts often portray people of color as incidental as they relate to the broader “world” sphere of human rights. Moreover, some people seem to find it challenging to connect the size of these peaceful protests to evidence-based inequality and demographic trends. Sure, it’s easy for an adult to recognize that there is a specific cultural relevance to what’s happening, but children need us to acknowledge and unpack the broader cultural dynamics. We must help young students understand how massive protests and their intensity levels are connected to a lack of resources and social investment in our communities.
More specifically, this generation grew up in a different world than we have now. There is astounding duplicity of national conscience with those that believe the first African American president’s election was both a post-racial and economic inequality high watermark. The fact is that years ago, in places like South Carolina, their parents lit the torch that led an African American candidate to the Presidency. But this didn’t just happen on a wing and a prayer. These communities began to connect the dots in early 2006. Moreover, these communities did not follow the “manufactured” models for civic engagement, and they authentically invested their hearts in what they believed.
We must help our students understand how the heart and the head are connected to education. Our classrooms are where they learn about the world around them and share big ideas. We must intentionally educate them about social advocacy and social distancing in our classroom teaching. Also, we have to share strategies to decuple traumatic experiences from their learning memory so they can retrieve information more successfully. Remember how the mind works, creating pegs in our brains on which we hang specific pieces of information that we witness, read, or discover. The trick is to facilitate them learning social advocacy, observing current health events, reflecting on what works, and encouraging them to take action.
In particular, we should help them understand how significant social and healthcare investment in engaging their communities will impact change throughout the world. We know that “hope” and “change” won’t have a chance if we don’t expand democracy to all Americans. The truth is that we need actual systems change, and many of these students live in neighborhoods that could be the difference if given a chance.
For example, POC in Florida make up 29.5% of the Citizen Voting Age Population and 69% are registered to vote.
- In 2008, POC made up 28.9% of the vote share in the general election, although more than a third did not vote (37.7%).
- Imagine what could happen in 2020 if we energize and turn out every eligible voter? Especially in places like Jacksonville, FL, where there are over 200,000 “Key” POC voters.
We all have benefited from a good education and gained valuable tools from our parents, teachers, and neighborhood schools. There is no doubt that today’s students are more than capable of successfully navigating their feelings through this moment. That’s what keeps me hopeful. Their interests represent our shared guiding principles. Once in classrooms, students will have the opportunity to work towards creating social, cultural, and economical solutions that will heal our world. At the same time, they will benefit from the collective social, civic, and economic advancements we have made over the years. Our job is to give them the support they need to advocate for themselves and teach them how to manage themselves in this new environment. If we invest our educational resources in our children, we will most likely have a positive return on that investment, and we all will capitalize on new opportunities with communities that share our interests.
To be continued …
Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.