What do we want the children of our community to learn from this moment in history? As we continue to discuss what school will look like this coming semester, have we considered that the most significant lesson students will learn this year may very well be the one we are modeling as adult community members, decision makers, and leaders? It may very well be impossible to educate all of our students as well as we would like to and in the manner we prefer this year due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, but there’s no doubt that students are learning right now as they observe their parents, school leaders, teachers, and community members debate. This moment is planting seeds in the minds and hearts of our local children that will outlive us all and will shape the future of life in this community.
As members of our community continue to fight about masks and instructional formats, what are our students learning to value? Will they learn that it is good (patriotic, in fact) to make small sacrifices for the wellbeing of our neighbors? Or, will they learn that they should have their individual desires and comforts catered to without exception, even at the expense of vulnerable members of our community? Will they learn that the scientific method is a responsible way to discover the truths of our world and that its thoughtful observation, measurement, and experimentation combined with testing and modification of hypotheses is a rational guide for the continual improvement of human behavior as we learn more and more about a brand new disease? Or, will they learn that it feels better to avoid the cognitive dissonance that comes with questioning one’s assumptions? Will they learn that communities can find creative solutions to address safety and education simultaneously? Or, will they learn to stubbornly refuse opportunities for collaboration and creativity? Will they learn that their actions, words, inactions, and silence impact those around them? Or, will they learn to ignore the harm that selfishness has on others?
I pose these questions to my neighbors and friends for our own collective reflection. The choices we make and the words we speak are very important right now. The children are watching and listening. How will we choose to shape their futures and our own as aging members of a community soon to be run by those listening ears and watchful eyes?
Robbie Steiner, New Albany