No matter your political preference, just about every person I talk to agrees that this is a period in our history that is very uncertain. Adults behaving badly, fake news, racism, sexism, elitism, and just about every “ism” you can mention has come to the forefront of our current reality. There is a sense of unease, unknowing, and a “what will happen next?” feeling. What does a skilled leader do in times like these? The answer is stay focused on what matters and provide stability. Not being complacent and watching things happen, but making a difference where it will have the most impact. What will we do with the children that are before us right now? We must Teach Our Children Well!
The Reading Together book in Kalamazoo this year is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Writing on the Wall, Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White. In this book, Jabbar provides balanced opinions that are rational during a time of just saying like it is, irrational. His focus on bias and unfairness and how it has played out throughout our young democracy particularly focused on race is very poignant.
Many may only know Jabbar as an outstanding basketball player, which strikes at the heart of his writing. One must peel the onion and look past the one thing he may be known for and uncover a history buff, voracious reader and writer, columnist for the Washington Post and author of several critically acclaimed books. And now a recognized leader in stirring discourse about providing stability in uncertain times.
In Chapter One, American Politics the Broom of the System, Jabbar provides three steps that he believes we need to implement to boost our political system out of complacency. His number one premise is to Teach Our Children Well! As an historian, he outlines through notable research how our brains become fixed on beliefs as we move past the age of 30 and do not accept change in our thinking very readily. Brain scans of those with a political bent lit up like addicts getting a fix when they rejected evidence contrary to their belief. Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen stated: “Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it.” In other words, we create a fixed mindset. If all we listen to is Rachel Maddow, then we think like Maddow. Likewise, if all we listen to is Bill O’Reilly, then we think like O’Reilly. As adults, we use the Internet and other information systems to confirm our current thinking and use what we gather to defend our thinking and as ammunition against those who disagree with us.
Jabbar postulates that it is too late for adults to be part of the solution toward fixing our current political situation. Not that they can’t change, but we have failed to teach them as children to be critical thinkers. We may teach our children to be scientific critical thinkers, but when it comes to religion and politics, we have led them to believe it is best to use your gut or intuition and to believe what parents, community and religious leaders believe. He espouses that we need to ensure that our children are taught from an early age to be critical thinkers and to question everything. How many of you have heard the adage, “My mom always said, don’t talk about religion or politics.” Well, how is that working for us? In our politeness and unwillingness to have hard conversations and discourse, we have allowed ourselves to become complacent and to accept whatever happens to us.
What we need to do is to stay focused on what we do have control of and that is the children who are in our care right here and now! Ensuring that they are literate critical thinkers, able to identify problems and take risks solving them, all while valuing the diverse thinking and contributions from ALL to ensure the common good.
Want to eradicate racism, sexism, elitism, and any other “ism?” Teach Our Children Well! Want to stamp out poverty and ensure that we have a planet to live on by solving the climate change issue? Teach Our Children Well! Want to eradicate childhood obesity and ensure our children grow into healthy adults? Teach Our Children Well! Want to live in peace where we value each other no matter our language, skin color, disability, or demographic background? Then Lead On my dedicated, passionate principal friends! And Teach Our Children Well!