A powerful day for teaching at CA

I wake up every day and am psyched to come to work. I am grateful to be at Colorado Academy. Our community is special. We are a school that always tries to do its best, despite our flaws and imperfections. I see our students who truly care—about their school work for certain, but, more importantly—about doing the right thing. I say this to my administrative team from time to time when we are dealing with a tough issue: “I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else in the world as we face this challenge.” And, I feel the same as I write this today. We are a strong community and we are CA. So, as we face a startling and disturbing time in American history, I am glad that we are in it together as a school community.

Let’s talk about Washington, D.C., and what happened at the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday. I am going to put on my history teacher hat. I teach a class about the Vietnam War. In the 1960s, there was massive disagreement over the war and a host of cultural and political issues. Protests were prevalent. At one point, during Richard Nixon’s presidency, the Secret Service had to block off the White House with commercial buses parked bumper to bumper to protect the White House from anti-war protesters. I should note: there is a difference between protesting and terrorism and anarchy. Certainly, during the Vietnam War, there were radical left-wing groups who bombed federal buildings and used terrorism. There were far more peaceful protests.

As a student and young person, I used to wish I could have lived through that period. There was political intrigue, a cast of fascinating personalities and characters, and great music. Events were so chaotic and so impactful that HISTORY seemed to be moving at “fast forward” speed. You and I are actually living through a period of extraordinary significance and change right now, and it is not really fun. There is a level of social unrest that has not been seen since the 1960s, and a pandemic that has upended our lives. I recognize the tension and anxiety that comes with living in this pivotal moment in history.

This summer we saw protests over racial injustice. Many of these events were peaceful. But, in places like Portland, Oregon, anarchists and others turned to violence. There were too many cases of looting and violence which undermined the cause of seeking racial justice. There were also times—like we saw in the 1968 Democratic political convention in which the police viciously beat and attacked anti-war protestors—that violence came from law enforcement, violating public trust.

I would remind our community, unequivocally, that the use of violence is unacceptable, and I condemn it no matter what the cause. The civil disobedience practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi was based on using non-violent direct action to draw attention to issues of injustice. We also have a system of government that allows us to push needed change through legislation.

I teach a class on terrorism. One should note that, as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations, terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R.) Some might define what we saw yesterday as terrorism. Some might see it as anarchy. There are so many questions about what happened, how it happened, and who was involved. There will be many investigations. Authorities have reported finding pipe bombs in the offices of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee. From some reports, there were white nationalists present who have long plotted to overthrow the U.S. Government. There also were people there who were encouraged to be there. We need to learn more about it. We, as citizens and people concerned about this nation, should not rush to judgment and should remain objective. Still, what we witnessed was clear: the “People’s House” was taken over through violence, with the intent of disrupting the lawful process of confirming electoral college votes.

We are facing complicated times. Yesterday was a dark day in America.

But, as the day turned into night, we saw our leaders—both conservatives and liberals—reject violence. We heard calls for unity. Leaders on both sides of the political aisle are noting that our words matter, that truth matters, and that it’s dangerous for any politician to use radical rhetoric, because bad actors will use it to instigate and justify violence. I watched TV well into the early hours of morning as Congress confirmed Joe Biden as the President-elect. I saw our political system begin to get back on track. I bounced between NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox News to get all perspectives. I encourage students to do the same and learn as much about this as you can. Today, in a refreshing sense of rationality—politically biased news outlets are reporting on the same reality, albeit with different approaches. But the fact that both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal could agree on the word “mob” implies a shared understanding of what happened. Nevertheless, it is important to get out of whatever political echo chamber you are in on social media and listen to different perspectives.

I see what happened yesterday as un-American. We are a nation of laws. Progress is made through negotiation and dialogue. It happens when we work together. It comes when we recognize truth and reality. Our political system was built to slow radical change. The founders, as imperfect as they were, built a system that was based on limiting authority and giving power to the people. (They also feared “the mob” and built in many checks and balances to prevent mob rule.) The most hallowed part of our nation’s tradition is the belief in the peaceful transfer of power. I choose to have faith in our system of government. The United States has many challenges and failings, but our system was designed to be able to improve the lives of Americans, extend rights to all, and ensure our liberty. If we engage positively in this system, we can create that change. I hope our students, as citizens, get involved and do so in informed and ethical ways.

This is a moment where I believe there will be real change. It won’t happen overnight. But I have hope that, if we all do our part, change will happen. I saw it the very next day, as students shared their thoughts and asked great questions. It was a powerful day of teaching at CA. It reminded me—once again—of why our CA Community truly is so special.

*Much of the content of this blog was shared when I met with Middle and Upper School students to discuss the events that took place on January 6, 2021 at our nation’s Capitol.