The Art of Teaching Civil Disobedience

I was a bit of a rebel growing up. By that I mean, I did whatever I wanted with really little care of what people thought about it. That is still mostly how I deal with things today, though I do accept that sometimes for the sake of my family that maybe I should take more care. For instance, as much as I don’t care if people think me having blue hair is ridiculous, I wouldn’t show up to one of my husband’s work events like that. His colleagues would judge him for that and it could affect his career. I get that.

I have always believed in the power of civil disobedience. In posts about the “Black Lives Matter” movement and any other protest, my theory has always been that protesting is a privilege that we have here and it should be nurtured whether we agree in the cause or not as long as it is peaceful and civil. I’m a firm believer that the masses can influence change and that there is power in numbers. I believe that as American citizens that it is our civic duty to stand up for our beliefs to try and inspire change in the world. We were given that right to keep the government in check. We were given that right to fight against injustice. We were given the right to have words that we can freely speak. We are so fortunate to have these rights. People who speak against the protestors, questioning their patriotism should realize that their protest is displaying a love of patriotism. Our soldiers put their lives on the line to protect this right, an important foundation in what it truly means to be American.

In my local government, there is an issue with teachers and their contracts. Without getting into the debate about the problem with teachers in America (the problem isn’t how much the schools get rather how they appropriate the money, in my humble opinion, though we do need to invest in our teachers because they are educating the next generation), there is a work-to-rule in effect due to contract issues. The students at my son’s high school yesterday decided to do a walk-out. He mentioned it over the weekend and I made my stance on the topic very clear: If he believes strongly enough in what is going on, then do it knowing that there will be potential consequences from the school. I, however, was not going to punish him. I made this decision for a few reasons.

  1. I 100% support our teachers. They do a lot for our kids, it’s the least we could do.
  2. I was not going to punish my child for civil disobedience. Kids could learn something from ignoring apathy and caring about a cause. I was not going to squash a potentially teachable moment for him. At almost 15, he is learning how to navigate the world. He is learning about his own belief system and developing his rational thinking skills. He is learning to be an adult. Part of that is to stand up for when you see injustice. I will encourage his intellectual growth. If he wants to stand up for something I may not agree with, I would still let him do it because he needs to develop his own belief system not just repeat back mine.

As we walked up to the school last week, the first day of this work-to-rule, my youngest son asked why his teachers were outside. I explained to them that the teachers need help to be even better. He stopped and looked up at me: “Why don’t they give my teacher what she needs? She is always nice and says ‘Good job, Georgie.’ We should be nice to her too.” My 5 year old seems to have more sense than a lot of adults out there. Also, the fact that he didn’t start talking in sentences until he was around 4 was very much thanks to the teachers at his public school preschool. He is starting to learn.

We are parents, tasked with raising the next generation of children. That is not something that we can just cruise control through. This is something that requires teaching valuable lessons to them through leading by example and encouraging their emotional and intellectual growth as well as their physical growth. My son ultimately decided he didn’t want to take the suspension and risk his swimming/college career with a sullied school record. Instead, he wanted to figure out better ways to help the cause. That was his choice and I was going to be proud of him no matter what he decided. He needs to learn what he feels is morally right. I am so proud of the adult he is becoming.

 

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