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For a teacher, sometimes its OK to pass on a teachable moment

By in Press Enterprise on August 26, 2017

By Carl Love

Hate, racism, KKK, Nazis, Confederate statues and fist fights – it’s been a rough couple weeks for our national fabric.

Amid the uproar over a violent clash at a racially-charged rally in Virginia comes the start of school in Southwest Riverside County. The weather’s not the only thing people are hot about this August.

I teach fifth grade at Rail Ranch Elementary in Murrieta. On the first day of school, my colleagues and I planned to read the kids a moving speech from Bobby Kennedy given on the night Martin Luther King was killed and have a class discussion. The idea was to promote unity as we embark on our year together.

Then came the Virginia tragedy and we decided to play it safe and save the talk for another day — maybe another year.

I know it was a teachable moment at the most opportune of times, what all teachers crave, yet here’s the reality: We teach in a politically volatile time and even the most innocuous of discussions – unity – can be misconstrued.

I can hear the phone calls now; read the emails already, “What are you doing talking about racism with my child at a time like this?”

I remember a year ago during the height of the presidential campaign when one of my students wore a pro-Trump button to school. The student even wrote “The Donald’s” name on the board as a joke. Others who favored Hillary Clinton weren’t amused. At least parents didn’t go off on me.

Or when I started teaching 20 years ago and Bill Clinton was talking about his relationship with an intern. We read about the Puritans in social studies and I said they were a lot more liberal in Europe about sex because they didn’t have our Puritan heritage. I can still hear the phone ringing […]    

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