Letter: Now Is the Time to Show Children the Value of Democracy

Dear Parents/Guardians:

As educational professionals, it is often incumbent upon us to serve as voices of reason and to provide perspective in the face of challenges we may face as a community, region, state or, in this case, nation.  Not since September 11, 2001 have I felt emotions similar to what I felt throughout yesterday’s unthinkable violent and destructive acts in Washington D.C.  As an educator and an adult human being, it is hard for me to understand how a situation like yesterday’s can develop.  With that said, I can’t imagine what might go through a child’s mind after watching the news or hearing a conversation about what occurred.

It is now time for us to work together as educators, families and community members, to show our children that democracy is a mainstay and truly represents the foundation upon which this nation was built, and that kindness and respect must always prevail.  While yesterday’s scene was beyond ugly, it is our charge to glean teachable moments from it, as hard as it may be to help children make sense of counterproductive adult behaviors.

We must remain committed to helping our children learn from what is inevitably a moment that will be written into United States history texts.  It is our collective responsibility to help our young people craft the pages that follow description of this moment with examples of the resiliency of our nation’s democracy.  It is also our obligation to help them reconcile the moment in the context of the sound values we attempt to impress upon them.

Some examples of how we can work together right now to address the situation with our children in an age-appropriate manner include:

  1. Reinforcing messages related to safety, security and support.  Many children will need reassurances and assistance in recognizing that yesterday’s events do not define our community or society.
  2. Helping them to design and develop productive means of conflict resolution.  Our children should know that disagreement is not unusual, but that kindness and respect for each other, our neighbors, and our school community should never be compromised when attempting to resolve a disagreement.
  3. Emphasizing the importance of providing safe spaces for open, thoughtful and responsible discourse, regardless of the types and quantity of opinions in the room.
  4. Denouncing any examples and/or symbols of hate, racism and intolerance.
  5. Highlighting the construct of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power that has occurred for centuries in a nation that has so often set the example, the significance of an informed and peaceful voice, that social media platforms are NOT primary sources, etc.

It is a time of hope.  The New Year is upon us.  Regardless, some challenges will persist, others will wane, and yet others will emerge.  Together, we have the unparalleled ability to help our children work through any challenges in an unbiased, accepting and pensive manner that can only help them become more productive and caring adults. This is so incredibly important, as we will be passing the baton to them. To borrow a quote from Jon Meacham highlighted in a communication I received this morning, “In our finest hours, the soul of the country manifests itself in an inclination to open our arms rather than clench our fists … let today and the days to come include some of our finest hours.”

Please keep in mind that we have an extraordinarily talented group of student support staff members in our district.  Please reach out promptly to any of them if you believe they can be of assistance to your child or family members.


James W. Polansky

Superintendent of Schools

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