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by Ashley Muscarella, NEA Student Program Chair
Recently, intolerance has reared its ugly head on a national scale. In lieu of hate and bigotry, we have all the more reason why we must be outspoken about our own core values. As aspiring educators, we know our public schools should be safe spaces where all students, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background, can have a learning environment that nurtures the mind and encourages exploration and problem-solving.
This is why as a college student and aspiring educator, I am proud to see higher learning institutions around the country take a stand against intolerance and hate.
Several, including Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Florida, have all denied venue requests for the fall semester from Richard B. Spencer, the white supremacist who led the violent Charlottesville protest last month that resulted in the death of anti-hate activist Heather Heyer.
We know from a recent tweet, Spencer is not giving up his college tour of intolerance. This is why we must stand together as social justice warriors and activists.
If you are a college student preparing to serve in our public schools or a new or veteran educator, a great way to take a stand and work to build an environment worthy of our kids is to be an active member of your local association. Your union can be a resource to you as a vehicle for social justice advocacy, cultural awareness training, and professional practices that help us become the strongest educators and most-valued community allies.
The next generation of educators, myself included, must be committed to dismantling the racial hierarchy in our country that has allowed groups like Spencer’s to grow. It’s not easy to discuss things like white privilege or socio-economic privilege. But to grow, we must find comfort in the discomfort. We must challenge ourselves to reflect upon our internal biases and external privileges so that we may fight for a better future for our students.
Future educators, like myself, teeter between striving for a better today and setting the example for the future we know our students deserve.
As an aspiring educator, I am a proud member of a generation that is willing to stand up against racial inequality, sexual, gender, and religious discrimination as well as ignorance and intolerance. I know the fight is long, but shying away is not an option for me or my peers. We are the promise of a new and better tomorrow—a future which we must uphold.