Sandy Hook. Charleston. Columbine. Orlando. With each tragedy, we mourn, then wring our hands. How and why did this happen . . . again?

Inevitably, the discussion focuses on access to guns. But there’s another, far more dangerous weapon at play: hatred born of ignorance and fear. It’s the weapon that drives violence, whether with guns, bombs, fists, or words. So when we talk about access to the tools of death and destruction, we need to ask ourselves, “How can we prevent the proliferation of hatred? How can we lock it away from kids?”

Educators have the ethical obligation to answer this. This means that we prioritize intercultural communication and collaboration. But too often, the policymakers who champion these 21st century skills seem less concerned about global understanding than “global competitiveness” (US Department of Education mission statement).

Competitive individualism requires sorting winners from losers. It’s a game of me vs. you and us vs. them—not all of us together. In this climate, tests are the screening device and focus of accountability. Educators are responsible for Johnny’s scores, not his ability to understand others. Assessments ask him to identify a country on a map, not demonstrate respect for its people.

Accountability certainly matters, but what knowledge and skills actually “count”? We see answers—and the consequences—in how we spend each day:

For every moment we obsess over data, we lose time to cultivate wisdom.

For every test that assesses only facts, we fail to reward civic action.

For every minute we spend dehumanizing Muslim, black, LGBT (or any) student, we feed ignorance.

In big and small ways, schools have the ability to prevent access—or open the safe—to the most destructive weapon of all. What are you doing today to keep the safe locked—or eliminate the need for it at all?

Share This