As educators, we are deeply involved with families, communities, and schools in the work of building and sustaining a just and equitable democracy. Over the last several months, long-standing tensions around religion, race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexuality, disability and political beliefs have risen to levels that disrupt and threaten our work and the work of all those who support learners and learning. The Executive Order banning travel for certain Muslim-majority countries and restricting immigration of refugees contributed to a climate of distrust and animosity, cultivating fear and creating inequities. We continue to witness the toll this climate takes on students throughout the educational spectrum and on their families, impacting learning as well as social and emotional well-being.
The children are watching. What we do in these times deeply affects what they learn about who they should become, who has a right to be here, and how they should treat each other, now and in the future. For a democracy to thrive, we must have the ability to freely and openly travel, communicate, and pursue learning opportunities wherever they lead us. We must also hold sacred our rights to free speech and dissent, while striving to protect the most vulnerable groups in society.
What is our responsibility in these difficult times? We need look no farther than our College of Education mission statement:
“As a public college of education, we strive to transform inequitable systems of education to create just, sustainable, and culturally-thriving democracies by engaging in dynamic, collaborative partnerships, practices, and research.”
In preparing future educators and in our own classrooms, we will work to ensure civility in public discourse about difficult issues. In light of hate speech and hostility in the broader and local context, we will work with our school and community partners to continue creating learning spaces free from bullying and harassment. In solidarity with the University of Washington and many other universities across the country, we pledge to protect the privacy of our students, staff, and faculty. We stand in support of our students, staff, and scholars from all countries and cultures. We pledge to provide our collective expertise and serve as a resource for the schools, community groups, and families of Washington state and beyond in doing the hard and essential work of educating, now and for our future.
In recognition of the changing times, we know that the work of creating just, sustainable, and culturally-thriving democracies will continue, and we pledge to redouble our efforts.
This statement was written collaboratively by members of the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Washington College of Education and published with the approval of the UW COE Faculty Council.
Susan B. Nolen, Faculty Chair, UW College of Education
Mark Windschitl, Faculty Chair-Elect, UW College of Education