17 teachable moments

We’ll always be grateful to the teachers who gave our kids a voice and showed them how to use it effectively.

As I’ve written about before, all four of our kids benefited from an outstanding public education system that provided them a safe environment to test themselves, to develop academically, to foster empathy and, therefore, cultivate lifelong friendships, to conduct themselves in a climate of mutual respect, to discover talents, to work on teams, to bounce back from disappointment, to thrive.

Today, all over the country, schools that work hard to offer those same opportunities to their students, will face a 17-minute national test.

I absolutely believe they are up to the task.

The National School Walkout, a memorial and protest in light of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, offers at least 17 teachable moments.

  1. History. Where would we be without civil disobedience in this great country of ours? From the Boston Tea Party to Martin Luther King’s March on Washington nearly 200 years later, our country has only improved thanks to the efforts of people brave enough to take a stand. Today, for many students that stand is walking out of school to draw attention to three specific demands — a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks for gun purchases, and a gun violence restraining law that would allow for temporary removal of a firearm should there be reasonable suspicion a person might become dangerous.
  2. Psychology. Not every student will choose to take part in the walkout and they’ll decline for deeply personal reasons. Protest participants need to understand that the freedom they celebrate extends to every member of their school, including those whose own definition of civil disobedience means they stay in the classroom.
  3. Political Science. Politics remain the blessing and the bane of a true democracy and a national protest like this can offer all of us an excellent opportunity to assess our elected officials. Watch how they react and hold them accountable to the standards you hold dear.
  4. Philosophy. Sometimes, in this frenetic world, we forget to take time to think and to convey those thoughts in a productive manner. This student-lead protest has led to excellent discussions that transcend the classroom.
  5. Journalism. I’m partial to this one because it was my college major. Articles and editorials leading up to, covering, and reviewing this event will vary greatly depending on location and partiality. What a perfect opportunity to disseminate the information and discuss sourcing and attribution.
  6. Photography. Whether you’re the subject or the person behind the lens, photos tell  powerful stories that will last well beyond the 17 minute march.
  7. Geography. Trace the march participation from its epicenter in Parkland Florida and see how far a movement can spread.
  8. Government. It will be interesting to track the specific requests as they do or do not result in changes to the law and to respond to these developments by voting consistently.
  9. Statistics. What percentage of students march? How many stay home? How many march with conviction and how many just want a little fresh air. A school survey would tell that story.
  10. Speech. Whether you agree with them or not, the student organizers of this protest have spoken eloquently about their mission. In the face of extreme grief and trauma, their poise has been admirable.
  11. Health. We grieve with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students as they work through the stages of their grief. Their willingness to do so in a public forum offers plenty of opportunity for meaningful discussion.
  12. Current Events. One impetus to pay closer attention to the days news is to participate in it.
  13. Civics. Students who elect to stand up for a cause will be more likely to extend their community participation to other causes and activities down the road.
  14. Debate. True discourse is becoming a lost art. A national student protest provides the perfect environment for healthy debate.
  15. Digital Media. Armed with cellphones, students can produce the kind of multi-dimensional stories I’m looking forward to seeing.
  16. Sociology. This protest will serve as a unifier for students who march toward a cause, and for those who decline to participate, because they make these choices based on their individual beliefs, rather than along the general high school lines of demarcation. In both cases, they participate en masse, which can be very empowering.
  17. Marketing. In one month, the students at one Florida high school organized a national movement. That’s pretty powerful.

    Mr. Parker, Vinnie, Molly and Katherine
    We’ll always be grateful to the teachers who gave our kids a voice and showed them how to use those voices effectively.

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