A School Is Not an Island

In light of the recent Executive Order on Immigration, we have been trying to decide what to do. How do we respond in general? As teachers in a school full of immigrant children, some of whom are from the countries banned explicitly? As humans?

I found this excerpt from The Essential Conversation instructive. It serves as an explanation of why, despite the organization’s non-profit status, despite employing AmeriCorps members, we must address what is going on. It provides a succinct and eloquent explanation of the storm of emotions I have felt and witnessed among my staff and our students in the past few months in particular.

Schools have always been the arena where the cultural and historical dramas of our society get played out. Joseph Featherstone’s view fo schools as society’s “theater” not only recognizes that schools mirror societal priorities, values, and conflicts, but also the ways in which — in vivid microcosm — they magnify and intensify them. We look inside schools — and at the relationships between schools and the communities they serve — and see vivid reflections of our society’s struggles to enact democracy, to reduce inequalities, and to open access and opportunity for our diverse citizenry. We witness the political and intellectual arguments surrounding bilingualism and multiculturalism. We hear the rancor in the competing perspectives on immigration, assimilation, acculturation, and indoctrination. Schools as theater reveal — in bold relief — the dissonance between our professed values and our behavior, between, for instance, our societal claims that “children are our most precious resource” and what we are actually willing to expend and sacrifice in order to assure their safety and development. 

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