Leave the labels, start acting to improve education

I think one of the great shortcomings of our society in the West is the propensity we have to “label” people.

When someone labels another with a sneer, I see a child in the corner stopping their ears saying “Na na na na na, I can't hear you.”

This is a problem.

There should be only one label that counts: human.

I've been reading a fantastic book by Philip Yancey called Soul Survivor where he profiles some of the people who most influenced his faith. While Ghandi wasn't a Christian, he did study the New Testament and professed that his concept of nonviolence came from the teachings of Jesus. This incredible little man was a big man who once nominated a low caste street sweeping girl to be the head of India. Ghandi was one of those people who had an incredible ability to see people as PEOPLE. No one was Untouchable, he renamed that caste of latrine cleaners and street sweepers “Children of God” and many still use that name today.

So, now, in our super intelligence, we can, here in the US, turn on the TV and flip to any news channel of our political leaning. Sure, the media still maintains the farce of unbiased reporting. All one has to do is listen to a presidential debate or address and flip between channels to wonder if the commentators listened to the same speech.

This is because we label. “Right wing conspiracy” “left wing liberals” “sorry union teachers” “privaleged private school” ‘feminist” “fundamentalist”‘ etc. etc. etc. Even worse: “lazy student” “apathetic student” “sorry” “crack baby” and it goes on.

We should label maps and the food in the freezer, that is it. Some of us label ourselves.

You cannot diminish you or me to a label of who we are — it is way to simplistic and just wrong. When most of us hear a label, we see a face. If it is a label we have chosen to shun, we see the face with a sneer on it, most likely someone in our past who is a horrid, hateful, self-righteous person who wore the label like a Medal of Honor while shaming the intent of many of the things they profess to believe. If it is a label we love and perhaps choose to try to wear ourselves, we may see the face of a person who wore that label but had a heart of gold and actions to boot. But labels aren't people.

Every “side” of an issue, if indeed an issue can be reduced to just two sides, has haters. This is an equal opportunity criticism here. If you are a political party in the US or anywhere and you honestly think that you are on the side of right, do you really think that all of your advocates are defending that right in respectful ways? Hatred, rudeness, and disrespect, wherever it is should be called out. This is a huge reason that politics has descended to the height of disrespectful diatribes — just because your or I have chosen to wear a label and defend it at all costs, doesn't excuse that some of us have accepted an “any means necessary” mentality.

That the “other side” is so evil and so bad and so wrong that they should be defeated by “any means necessary” even if it means rudeness, yelling, character assassination, and profanity.

“Fight fire with fire and you end up with only ashes,” said Abigail van Buren.

“But if you bite and devour each other beware lest you consume each other.” Galatians 5:15

The worst television today includes such behavior. Whether it is vain, selfish “housewives” tearing each other apart or six talking heads taking turns yelling over each other to try to get the last word — biting, devouring is offensive. It is not ok.

But don't think that schools don't behave this way. Schools get separated by “for the principal” and “against the principal” or “for” this person or “against” that person. Any time you see people taking sides and taking up arms, the organization is getting ready to suffer.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

In India, Mountbatten famously said:

“On my western front I have 100,000 crack troops and unstoppable bloodsheed while on my east; I have one man and no bloodshed.”

One man. One peacemaker did that. Willing to starve himself during the miracle of Calcutta, Ghandi used himself to stave off the violence. He didn't care who was right, the bloodshed was wrong whoever did it.

For education to come together, we must stop labeling and start working together. Stop holding up little schoolchildren and claim that somehow you love kids more than your opponent — as we say in South Georgia — BULL. You don't have a monopoly on loving kids. Plus, loving children doesn't mean you're right any more than loving a flower doesn't mean that you won't carelessly step on it while wrestling with an opponent.

 

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere