First, if you haven’t yet completed our staff or parent re-opening survey, please be sure to do so by this Tuesday at 4 p.m. Tell your kids to do theirs as well. The links are below. If you have already completed yours, then THANKS!
Second, and more importantly, I wanted to share a few of my reflections about Independence Day and what it means to me to be an American at this moment in our history. So please indulge me for a minute more . . .
As an old social studies teacher, I have always taken a certain pride in the traditions, holidays, and stories of brave Americans who helped to build this country. But it is no secret that when America declared its independence from Britain in 1776, that was a declaration made by wealthy white property owners, who, despite their flaws, were prophetic. While it is true that many Hispanic Americans and African Americans fought in the Revolutionary War (remember Crispus Attucks?), once we won that war, not all Americans initially got to enjoy the benefits of our independence.
Over the course of our history, America has endeavored to become more inclusive and make good on our belief articulated in the Declaration of Independence: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
A lot of folks are making statements and taking strong stands these past several weeks (which can be helpful in changing governmental laws or procedures). But if we want to change the body politic, we need to not just make statements, we also need to listen – to ourselves and to one another. We should be talking together about race: what we understand, what we have been taught to believe by our families and our community, how race has impacted our lives. And schools should be one place where that can happen. That won’t happen if we continue to avoid these discussions because they may be uncomfortable.
If we are able to push past that discomfort, or at least lower that discomfort, then we need some ground rules to engage. I want to suggest a very important one: don’t label people. While I believe pointing out words or deeds as racist may be helpful in understanding the concept, labeling people as racist does more harm than good. It pushes us further apart. Labeling people shuts down the dialog, plus it ignores the fact that racism is so pervasive in our culture, that it is hard not to have been impacted by it regardless of how much melanin you may have in your skin. That means all of us – white, tan, brown and black – are likely racist in some aspect or to some degree. And if we want to figure these things out, we certainly should not exclude the vast majority of people from that discussion. So, my strong suggestion moving forward is that we label the performance, not the person.
Over the past month or so, the nation has once again begun to assess when and how we can further realize those bold claims initially made in our Declaration of Independence nearly 250 years ago. If anything should endure, it is contained in that promise we make to our people, that pledge we have made to the world.
REMINDER: We’ve designed three surveys to guide our Return to Learn planning – one each for our parents, staff, and students. Links to the staff and parent surveys are posted at the very top of our website, and they also appear here.
Parent Version: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PB_parent_ReturnToLearn1
Staff Version: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PB_staff_ReturnToLearn1
Student Version: sent to their school email inbox
Tim O. Mains, Pine Bush Superintendent