On Christmas, I was featured on the front page of The Missourian for winning a national teaching award. By this summer, I felt I had no choice but to resign, and, at this point, I doubt I will return to the classroom.
A lifelong learner and passionate advocate for critical thinking, schools are no longer places where educators like myself can function, much less thrive.
A career in education meant certain sacrifices such as low wages and high stress, but the sense of purpose in nurturing young minds, spirits and hearts gave me the fortitude to persist. Providing even a few learners with the ability to see the world from another’s perspective seemed worth it.
In recent years, however, my ability to do this work has been hamstrung by myriad factors stemming from the 2016 election outcome. From rallying cries to “ignore loser teachers” to decisions by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, those in power actively undermine our society’s knowledge workers, including scientists trying to save our lives.
Author Ray Bradbury said: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” It appeared to me this summer that the fascists had won: We live in a post-truth world where people believe anything that suits their agenda, facts be damned.
Although I am heartened by recent efforts of ordinary citizens to fight for the integrity of our democracy, our nation is as divided as it was at the end of the Civil War. Today’s headlines are a direct consequence of what agricultural poet Wendell Berry famously termed the “hidden wound” of racism that stems from slavery. This system continues because of our unwillingness to consider the world from someone else’s point of view. The most powerful protest sign I have seen recently simply states: “Accept my existence or expect my resistance.”
While Missouri was a border state claimed by both sides in the Civil War, nearly triple the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy fought for the Union. We are known as the “Show-Me State” for good reason. We want proof.
There is proof, my fellow Missourians. You can read about it for yourself or you can ask an expert: scientists, librarians and educators. Immigrants make our nation stronger; accessible health care is essential for everyone; wearing masks will protect you and others; law and order unfairly targets Black and brown people and women belong anywhere decisions are made.
“Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” That is the translation of our state motto. To me, that clearly means one thing this fall: Vote out the current administration, regardless of your party affiliation, and give our nation the chance to heal and return to the values that can and will sustain us.
Lara Dieckmann is a former educator and proud Missourian.