Sunday, January 23, 2022
HomeEducationMy college students and I are watching democracy erode in real-time

My college students and I are watching democracy erode in real-time


As a highschool historical past trainer, I interact with my college students in regards to the significance of democracy. The values of participation, illustration, participating in public discourse, and difficult authoritarianism in all its varieties are concepts that we hook up with our classes day by day. We’ve mentioned, for instance, the labor motion of the late nineteenth century and the Black Freedom Motion of the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties.

These conversations have felt significantly resonant these days. Final week, we marked the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot, and our suburban New Orleans college district elevated a person who marched to the Capitol that day — somebody who has written that lecturers have “no values” and “no work ethic” — to its board. Although he has since resigned, that the Jefferson Parish College Board ever put this man able of energy speaks volumes about this place and second.

Headshot of man with a goatee in a blue dress shirt.

John Guzda
Courtesy picture

I bear in mind clearly how on Jan. 6, 2021, one in all my colleagues rushed into my classroom to inform me that I “would possibly need to activate the information.” As my college students had been working independently, I shortly checked the information on my laptop and made the choice that we wanted to cease what we had been doing and “witness historical past” ourselves. Collectively, we watched because the insurrectionists ran up the Capitol stairs.

“Mr. Guzda, that is fascism isn’t it?” requested one pupil.

Sure, I replied, including that the entire world was watching.

“If most of these folks appeared like us, they might be shot wouldn’t they?” requested one other.

I checked out my predominantly Black and Latino college students. “I see and know why you’re saying that,” I stated. “You most likely aren’t mistaken.”

The remainder of that day is a blur, however what I do bear in mind is that exterior of those observations and questions, the classroom was very quiet. It was not crammed with the banter, laughter, and joyous vitality that often permeate our room. I may inform by the appears on my college students’ faces that they understood the gravity and historic nature of what was taking place.

Right here, too, my college students had been studying about democracy — and its fragility.

In our neighborhood, we all know this all too effectively. The identical college board that put in a person who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally after which marched to the Capitol had beforehand taken the extraordinary measure of eliminating most people remark interval throughout college board conferences. This modification occurred within the instant aftermath of Hurricane Ida, when a lot of the general public was out of state and reeling from the impression of a devastating storm. This coverage represented yet one more instance of the erosion of democracy.

The anti-democratic conduct of the Jefferson Parish College Board has additionally been on show in relation to problems with race. Regardless of pleas from the neighborhood — together with social research lecturers who signed letters to the district — the majority-white college board has not modified the names of a number of colleges that also honor white supremacists, comparable to Sen. Allen Ellender, an ardent segregationist, and Alfred Bonnabel, an schooling official who supported the Confederacy and owned enslaved folks. In a faculty system that predominantly serves Black and brown college students, it’s egregious that there hasn’t been a lot as a fee to look into the identify adjustments. It’s evident that some folks in energy don’t perceive the generational and historic trauma that a lot of our college students and lecturers face.

Is it any marvel I’m seeing so many Louisiana lecturers (and lecturers across the nation) depart their jobs? Given the dearth {of professional} courtesy. Given the obsession with standardized testing. Given the mounting workload and the low pay.

It’s not as a result of we don’t love our college students and our work. It’s usually due to selections from out-of-touch boards, district leaders, and state officers. At the same time as we, lecturers, attempt to instill democratic values in our college students, it may well really feel like democracy is leaving us behind.

John Guzda is a fierce advocate for public colleges. He serves because the social research division chair at West Jefferson Excessive College in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

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