By: Skylar Ribotsky
My sophomore year history teacher had been teaching at my high school for generations before I had him. Unlike other teachers, when you stepped into his class it was as if you entered into a different time. One where education is about true understanding and curiosity. This teacher often spoke of times where all classes were like this, though today when the bell rings and you leave his class, the other classes in your day are starkly different.
This very teacher taught my classmates and me about the Enlightenment, for what some would deem an unnecessary amount of time; though when you get down to it, there was a method to his madness. The period in Europe that was The Enlightenment was somewhat a revolution of thought, one that maybe we could use in America today, or at least in the classrooms across this nation. You see, the idea that school is a place to take the knowledge you were given and seek “your own truth” or rather your own belief system is no longer. Instead, school buildings have to become political battlegrounds.
Little by little the safe haven of the classroom, where are ideas are brought about to nurture and discuss, are sometimes overwhelmed today by one-sided views by individuals on both sides of the aisle. No matter what your political beliefs, the current state of the education system we deem as a great privilege in this nation, should upset you. There are a time and a place for politics and political discourse. But every open discussion in a classroom should not become political, just because you do not agree with someone else’s point of view.
Now we are not saying that discussion in the classroom is bad, we here at The Ribotsky Institute believe that discourse is important and necessary, but if you are in a class with a Republican teacher or professor and you define as a Democrat, as well as if you are in a class where the teacher or professor is a Democrat and you define as a Republican, you can be ostracized for those views just because they aren’t the same as the majority.
We are also forcing our young people to grow up way too fast. Social media and the technological advancements of the new era of the information age have put far too much information at our fingertips. Many children are not mature enough to handle the decisions identifying with a certain political ideal comes with. This is why it is so important for teachers and schools to remain tolerant and impartial.
Learning about politics is great and important, so do not misunderstand it. But this isn’t how generations before us learned. You see to truly teach the concepts of all beliefs, one must discuss them all. Not just the ones we identify with. Though the problem is that so often now we see and hear stories about viewpoints permeating through teaching. In some cases, the classroom has been turned into a forum to discuss political agenda. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is not the education your kids should be receiving.
There is an inherent danger in this reality. You know we have seen the discussions become popular topics over the past several months as the systematic issues we face as a country have come center stage. Whether they be about race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other intolerance or injustice; the common question that arises from many of these conversations is, what can be done to undo the injustice or to change it?
We here at The Ribotsky Institute, have been thinking extremely hard about that question and we strongly believe that as much as you can say that everything begins at home, the same could be said about the classroom. During the workweek children across this country spend more time at school then they do at home. That being said, teachers and professors have a moral and ethical responsibility to do right by all of our children, and to do right we mean to once again allow classrooms to be a place of discovery and understanding, not spoon-feeding so we all exit the building with the same belief system.
If we look back at our history much of the bias we see today is all a result of the way in which we educated our youth. During the days of segregation, teachers refused to teach Black students, and so just as that bias was learned at home it was observed and absorbed in the classroom. Holocaust and Jewish education are not mandated in many states across the country, and so we face the same gross anti-Semitism that we did decades ago when the Jewish people were being murdered for being Jewish. The realization that we face the same danger today is scary and it is time we wake up. Holocaust education should not be a novelty, it should be the norm as it is, whether we like it or not, a reality of our history. After all, it is the famous Holocaust survivors who are the ones that said that if we do not learn about our history, we are doomed to repeat it.
The racial, religious, and all other prejudices that we see exploding across the country today may not be so easily fixed, but we could try to focus our education system on not exploiting one view or the other. Schools are supposed to be what they were intended to be, a place for education, self-growth, and understanding, not buildings filled with teachers only teaching about things that fuel some predetermined belief system. The very heart of that is inherently anti-American and goes against every ideal this great nation stands for. This is the country that was built upon differing viewpoints, what we fear most is that that great American ideal is dying inside the four walls of a classroom. There is so much to be learned from one another, and we need to fight to hold on to that value.
We need to once again reinforce the great American tale of the “melting pot.” Our history has not been pretty, and we have been unjust in a lot of ways against a lot of groups. There is something special and wildly beautiful though about the story and history of this great nation. America, by definition, is a culmination of a multitude of different groups of people, though we come from different backgrounds originally as well as different places on the planet, we are all Americans.
We here at The Ribotsky Institute think that this very idea has gotten lost in the vast heaviness of political unrest we face as a nation. It is time to stop teaching divisiveness to our children on both sides of the aisle. Maybe, just maybe, if we begin once again to teach children about the ideals of “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of many, one,” the idea that no matter our separate groups we at our cores are all American. All it takes is the commitment to leave political agendas at the door when entering a place of learning. It is also, the tolerance to teach our children what the opposite beliefs are. Remember, this is the home of the free because of the brave. This is the country where your entitled to have an opinion and can express it freely. Where you can fly the country’s flag high or you can burn it in protest if that is what you choose to do.
The path seems clear, we must love and tolerate one another in order to be true Americans. But that starts in the classroom as easily as it starts at home.