The readings this week felt eerily relevant after the tumult of last week’s election. All year, I have been thinking about the sins of omission committed by the leaders of our country. It has been exhausting (and frankly, disgusting) to watch these men repeatedly respond to various insidious statements, decisions, and policies of our president with complete silence. It’s like watching someone drive a car at 100 mph toward a concrete wall while the three passengers sit there with their mouths shut. I refuse to believe that these men are not aware of the ugliness underlying what is going on in our country. Their complicit silence is a million times more damaging than verbal agreement.
Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. – James 4:17
So it would be an understatement to say I have been thinking a lot about what I personally can do to work towards resolving some of these issues in our country. One of the reasons I am interested in pursuing a career in academics is the ability to impact the way the next generation thinks. This is a tremendous responsibility, but one that can truly be transformative in our country and our world. *In comes “Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage” from Paulo Friere.* I think I’ve always known that great educators teach from a place of truth and humanity, but I had never really understood the *how* of this. Friere emphasizes how important it is to bring our whole self to the classroom as an educator. That teaching requires us to come from a place of truth within ourselves, and honor that truth in a transparent way in the classroom. This also means recognizing our own, and our students’, humanity. Friere puts this in a beautiful way in the following:
It is my belief that today the progressive kind of teacher needs to watch out as never before for the clever uses of the dominant ideology of our time, especially its insidious capacity for spreading the idea that it is possible for education to be neutral…as if it were possible to exist as a human being in the world and at the same time be neutral.
…I ought to transmit to my students my capacity to analyze, to compare, to evaluate, to decide, to opt, to break with. My capacity to be just, to practice justice, and to have a political presence. And as a presence, I cannot sin by omission. I am, by definition, a subject “destined” to choose…And all that means being ethical.
How powerful is that?
Growing up, we are given the impression that the process of “coming of age” only happens once. As I get older, I realize that we are constantly coming of age, or as Friere (or Michelle Obama) put it, in the process of “becoming.” This means our perceptions, opinions, and passions are constantly evolving – and that’s okay. I think that incorporating this part of ourselves into the classroom is important and valuable for our students. It helps them recognize their own humanity in us. It gives them an example of how we must continuously work to better understand the world around us. We need thinking, ethical leaders, people willing and able to engage in discourse with others with opposing views, but also have the courage to stand up for what they know to be right, and we must begin this preparation in the classroom. Sometimes this will put us outside of our comfort zone, and that’s okay – that’s the point.