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A Message to Educators about Guiding Discourse on Today's Historic Events

Dear Colleagues:

Dr. Martin Luther King and I did not walk this earth at the same time.  He was killed before I was born.  Yet the scenes I recall from history lessons from my childhood of Dr. King’s peaceful marches for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights of 1965, stand in dark contrast to what I have seen unfold today, where those seeking to invalidate a constitutional election actively charged the nation’s capitol with violent intent.

Our students may want to engage in conversation regarding today’s historic events, and the events that will unfold over these next few days and weeks.  Dr. King said, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”  As you consider how to help build those critical thinking skills, the organization Teaching Tolerance suggests that adults can navigate these teachable conversations by: 

  1. Listening - provide an opportunity for students to express how they are feeling.

  2. Protecting - Help to protect students from misinformation and help them be critical consumers of their sources of information. They say, “deal in facts and big ideas; avoid speculation.”  Further, “do your best to make students feel safe.  Be honest, but remain calm. Organize the discussion as you would any discussion.”

  3. Modeling - Teaching Tolerance uses the term “model” to mean “help students translate feelings of hopelessness into opportunities.”  I would go further than that to say that children will model their beliefs and their behaviors based on what they see us say and do. To help students “think intensively and think critically,” lead them in conversation grounded in an anchor text or article.  Further, be mindful of how you model behavior on social media.  

  4. Taking care of yourself - Check in with each other and know that we have resources available.

I hope these resources are helpful to you.  


Tony Sanders