We’re at the Ministry of Education of Qatar, discussing the implementation of social studies standards across our two countries. And it’s interesting because when our delegation carefully brings up that our content area- specifically the tenet of civic responsibility- is the bastard muggle child in the wizarding world of language and STEM (every time we enter a ministry I think I’m transported to a Harry Potter movie) we’re met with knowing nods of recognition. Social studies is a Jon Snow (switching fantastic metaphors) everywhere and we need a little magic to revive.
This is a big, fat prob, and I contend that the division and contemptible rhetoric currently invading our political and social structures can absolutely be connected to citizens’ inability to access, through formal education, the ability to effect change in society. This is within teachers’ reach. Literacy and numeracy get us nowhere if we don’t know how to be active citizens in a diverse, democratic society. STEM gets us nowhere if we can’t be ethical, humane, and open. Social studies, for you acronym-lovers out there, is a great BFD.
If a Trump presidency can be tied to the frustration and disenfranchisement of a population who a) didn’t have the analytical and/or communication skills to identify and precisely voice their frustrations, leading to b) them not coming up with a pragmatic course of action that could measurably improve their lives, then we have to address the root to transform the increasingly white supremacist tree.
As dire as our situation looks in the United States, I’m reminded by my visit to three very different countries, where both citizens and expats would have to work much more creatively to prompt some political policy, that we still do live- at least for now- in a place where we can make our voices work for us. Don’t just stew: do.
We can connect with and listen to other perspectives- not divisively but with compromise and action at the forefront. We can take a page from Dan Rather’s idea book and “flood newsrooms or TV networks with (our) calls if (we) feel they are slipping into the normalization of extremism.” We can contact local, state, and national legislators and pressure them to make decisions for humanity. Shoot- for the moment, we can still run for these positions ourselves.
In the wise words of another man I was lucky enough to meet today, let’s get that elephant out of the room, yeah? Accio pen! It can truly be mightier than the sword.