A letter from our president: Black Lives Matter. They matter in how we teach, too.
Like so many, I have struggled with my own emotions over the past weeks to be able to find the right words to address the anger, sadness, frustration and anxiety that we are all feeling. The truth is there are no right words. We condemn the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others at the hands of the police. On behalf of the WW Graduate School community, I extend our condolences and stand with their families and with their communities. It is time to move past thoughts and prayers and engage in proactive measures to ensure that the Black community, and other historically marginalized communities feel safe and can thrive. Members of our own community—our colleagues, our graduates, our teacher candidates—are hurting and are angry. We support them and share their pain.
Even as we mourn, we recognize that these deaths also point to fundamental and systemic issues of inequity and oppression with deep historical roots and ongoing consequences. The disproportionate incidence of illness, death, and economic disaster in communities of color due to the coronavirus pandemic makes it clear that these consequences run deep. These most recent acts of violence are not isolated symptoms but are part of a disease that has plagued our country since its inception.
We at the WW Graduate School of Teaching and Learning are working to prepare the next generation of educators to serve our youth and school communities, to develop equity and student agency, and to dismantle the structures of systemic racism and injustice that incite violence and harm. We don’t have all the answers, but we do believe strongly that to be silent is to be complicit in the injustices being perpetrated.
We are committed to developing our own and our teachers’ ability to understand, acknowledge, and challenge damaging structures of power and bias in curricula, pedagogical approaches, and institutions; to bringing an anti-racist orientation to our work; and to learning how we are shaped by the past while responsible for our actions in the present. James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” We must face our nation’s history of oppression and hatred and work in partnership to create a better future for all of us.
As devastated as we are by present events, we are hopeful for the future. Teaching is by its nature an optimistic profession, premised on the assumption that all students can develop their capacities to learn and do better. Indeed, teaching is fundamentally the work of transformation, of helping learners identify the kind of people they want to be and guiding them in their chosen paths. We may live in a broken world, but we aspire to repair and restore it, and we commit ourselves to this work.
On behalf of the WW Graduate School of Teaching and Learning,
Deborah Hirsch, President