June 24, 2015 / Simpson's Summer Blog Series
If the murders had taken place in Iraq with a radical Sunni Muslim walking into a Mosque filled with Shi’a Muslims praying and the radical Sunni shot to death nine Shi’a while they were praying, we would dismiss the murders with a thoughtless comment, “They have been killing each other for hundreds of years.” But it wasn’t in Iraq. It was another country, another religion. It is our country, it is Christianity, but with the same hatred, bigotry and pure evil. How long have we been stereotyping and killing others who are racially and religiously different from us?
Another question about this event troubles me greatly. How does a person build up so much hatred toward another race of people in just 21 years? Hate is learned, so who was his teacher? Although racist sites on the internet give bigots a free public platform and place, all of them in the same room so they can feed off each other’s hate, the total blame cannot not be placed on these sites. When did Dylann Roof develop the predisposition to go to these sites and start to believe their hate-filled lies? Did a teacher somewhere miss an opportunity to point this young man in a different direction?
I must be honest. Since last Thursday the faces of children who once sat in my classes, but in later years committed serious crimes, have been passing through my mind. I have often wondered if I could have done more to touch their young and impressionable souls and point them in a different direction.
Teachers today are under constant pressure, I believe too much pressure, to solve all the academic, economic, social, and negative family issues that face our children. This pressure has caused many of our best and most creative teachers to throw up their hands and leave teaching because we are too often asking the impossible.
However, over the past 43 years I have come to hold several beliefs about the role of teachers in our public schools, and the tragedy in Charleston has intensified my commitment to those beliefs. First, you may have a license to teach math, biology, history or English, but first and foremost you teach children. There may be days when something other than the planned math lesson takes priority.
Second, we neglect addressing the great moral issues of life in our democratic society to our own detriment. In the early twentieth century, progressive educators viewed the school as a place where students practiced living in a democracy by addressing the responsibilities as well as the freedoms of living in that democracy.
Third, we are witnessing the largest migration of people to different countries and regions in recorded history in order to escape famine, poverty, wars, and genocide. Consequently, I believe the most important moral value that must be taught to all our children is a sincere respect for all people who inhabit our planet. Furthermore, one of the most effective forms of teaching and learning is when the teacher models the learning. Modeling is especially powerful when teaching moral values. We must recommit to teaching and modeling respect for all, including my people and especially those people. This moral value is more important than STEM, Common Core, IPads, and standardized tests. Do my views constitute heresy? I am beginning my 43rd year as a teacher; I have been around the block more than once. I have no apology for this view.
When I was a child attending a little rural church across the country road from my home, I was taught a song the words of which I will never forget. These words, referring to children, are, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” As a teacher, I want to ask you a very important question. When you stop and consider the students who will be in your classes in just over a month from now, will all those students be precious in your sight? You do not have to say to your students, “You are precious.” They will know by your actions. Model the learning.
Bless you my children, Terry L. Simpson