As the descriptions and images of the carnage in Paris pour across our screens and our hearts go out to the families of the innocent, it is important for us to think of our children and our students. While the candidates and commentators build up their own rankings by fanning the flames of vengeance and blame, we have to find a way to be attentive to the concerns and questions of our students. Most educators do a fine job of keeping their own personal political opinions out of the discussion when they are carrying out the planned curriculum. It is a little more challenging when we have to face questions about the terrible tragedies that happen over the weekend, whether they happen in our towns or across the world. Before smartphones and the 24-hour news cycle, we could hope that our students would not know about these terrible events. Now we are obliged to assume that kids have heard the news or have seen a few of the front-page images that appear automatically when apps are opened or TV channels are surfed across. We must face this discussion courageously with our students. We must stay true to our mission by hearing all sides and considering all points of view. We must, as we aspire to do every day while guiding our students through inquiry, be comfortable in posing questions that do not have clear, unambiguous answers. We must allow students the space to grapple with these questions and allow them to hear the thoughts and opinions of their peers. We must caution them to not jump to conclusions or label large populations of people based on the actions of a few. We must encourage them to hold fast to the values that we hold dear. We must encourage them to stand with all people across the world who hold similar values. We must encourage them to stand with our fellows who are struggling against a common enemy of intolerance. By engaging in this discussion with our student, we stand with the people of Paris as they mourn the dead, care for the injured, and comfort the traumatized.
image credit: Justin Minggan Wei