What do we do now? The Future.

I wrote my way out. I wrote my way out of hell.
I wrote my way to revolution.
I was louder than the crack in the bell.
… And in the face of ignorance and resistance
I wrote financial systems into existence
And when my prayers to God were met with indifference
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.

-Hamilton, Hurricane

Waking up today, we’ve elected a leader who has said misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic comments. That is a fact. I’m ashamed that I didn’t make a bigger statement earlier. Could I have made a change with my words? I truly thought it wouldn’t go this far.

What do I do? How can I make any difference now? What do I tell my students? 

These words from Hamilton came to my mind. I could write about it. They can write about it.

We can invest in tomorrow. I’m changing my focus around this issue from hopelessness to empowerment. Arts educators are inherently teaching Social Emotional Learning. Students learn how to read each others emotions, explain their own, but most importantly, they learn empathy. They imagine what experience can be like in another person’s shoes. The arts give students a vehicle to express themselves, but also to listen to understand one another.

Social justice is a natural partner to empathy. Studies have shown that students who participate in the arts show more civic engagement. Students deserve to use their safe arts space as a way to express the truth about how they feel oppression, fear, marginalization, but also how they can be supported by community and strive for justice, equality, and freedom.

This election has frightened our children. I don’t understand how someone could look into the eyes of a ten year old Mexican-American Luis’ eyes and tell him his family should be deported. Or have a chat with Sabina who has been packing a suitcase because she’s afraid about her Muslim-American family having to leave their home. Or that students who haven’t even considered their sexuality, might not be able to be in loving relationship while feeling safe. This is the reality of what students are afraid of. Our politics shouldn’t inspire this harm; it is injustice and inequality.

How do you talk to students, too young to vote, about the ways their country has let them down? We’ve elected someone who stands as a symbol for the types of threats and injustice they face.

  1. We let them talk. They already have the words. If we can give them the time and a pen, they can be empowered.
  2. Give them agency to determine the rules and policies in the classroom. They can’t in federal elections yet, but they can build a caring democracy. Students have a lot of thoughts about how they want to work together and treat each other. I’m often impressed by their intuition and kindness.
  3. Strengthen the community. Show you care and will protect them. Emphasize they can defend and stand for each other.

I’m calling for a revolution. We need arts education more than ever to create a empathetic, educated public. 

I refuse to let future citizens slip by perpetuating injustice. It’s the Golden Rule to treat others how you’d like to be treated. This shouldn’t just be a rule for kindergarten and forgotten, but a permanent part of our education and citizenship.

We have an obligation to protect our children from fear and prepare them to be the change makers of tomorrow. This starts with giving them the tools to express themselves with clarity and unparalleled empathy. These skills flourish in the arts.

The arts are the best representation of humanity and model citizenship.

We need presidential candidates that have the best qualities of empathy. We need to start training them today. If there is one thing this election has revealed, it’s how flawed the political system is in America today. Through the arts, let’s prepare the change-makers, politicians, and voters of tomorrow.

How to help:

1.Donate

Imagine if the millions of dollars spent on the election were given to educate the future. Make a donation to an arts education organization.

Advocates- Americans for the Arts

Support diversity in the arts education- Enrich Chicago

LGBT Rights- Broadway Youth Center

Give art supplies, costumes, musical instruments to schools

2. Volunteer

Whether you’re an arts educator, advocate, or concerned citizen, your time matters.

826 National -volunteer as a writing tutor in cities across the country

Give your time to community centers, parks, or schools. Support work you see that is building communities and give back.

Further Reading:

Good news is that more women of color were voted to represent in the Senate.

Leaders in the Arts Education such as Dr. Bettina Love are creating impressive social justice tools.

Arts Educators have been thinking about our impact for a while throughout this election.

Have faith in the future.

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