The Internet has created a wealth of information and knowledge at our finger tips. In an instant one can read about the French Revolution and Robespierre who became the spokesman for democracy to bring freedom to all men; stating that the rights of man should be extended to all including the poor and slaves. Yet France has no statues to Robespierre for he is also responsible for what has become known as the time of ‘Terror’ He sent more people to the Guillotine then the ‘Aristocrats’ the French Revolution was fighting against. It is what leads us to thinking about the words of Edmund Burke who feared democracy. He feared the frailties of mankind. Burke talks that “liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.” For me as I read his thoughts; I tried to relate the issues of the battle for democracy to current issues that are challenging today’s society.
I imagine today Burke would say it is humankind’s frailties that prevents schools being built-in California, meaningful gun legislation or even real action on the misuses of social media, the internet and how it is public opinion that drives change rather than ‘doing the right thing’. In education we speak of ‘Servant Leadership’ or ‘Moral Leadership’. Dean Fink in “Leadership for Mortals” speaks of bringing each other together professionally and personally into a commitment of creating a ‘learning community’. Fink indicates leadership is working towards that common vision. What are the essential values we espouse at our schools? What is the culture of character and competence we are striving for in ourselves and our students?
When I read ‘Burke’s quote “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’; one cannot help but wonder if as John F. Kennedy said ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country,’ that needs to be part of our cultural make-up. On a smaller scale at schools; as we look towards what actions are required in order to improve the competencies and character of our students it will certainly require a commitment from each one of us to work towards that common vision and the creation of a learning environment. How many of us use the Internet to seek the opinions of the scholars or do we sign on to ‘Twitter’ to read the opinions of the masses? Will it be the opinion of the masses that determines our course of actions or will it be from creating a culture where the common virtues of ‘Respect for self, others and property’ that determine our teachings?
I attended a professional development session by George Couros whose topic was ‘Leading Your School in a Digital Age’. Technology is certainly a tool our students are very comfortable in using be it not always in the way we want. Technology and the Internet have a world of information both good and bad that can be accessed by anyone and as educators and school leaders how can we bring our schools and students into the Digital Age accessing the benefits of the Internet and social media. I have been to be leery of the negatives of what the Internet can bring to us and our students. Although Burke would be fearful of how individuals can misuse social media and the Internet, maybe there is another way. Perhaps it is through education and modeling that we can teach everyone the power of creating a global learning community as well as enhancing our ‘Digital Footprint’. As we work towards creating an environment rich in writing and learning how are we using technology and the internet to enhance literacy in our students? How can we use our students’ interests to increase writing, engagement and meaning in our classrooms? How can we teach our students appropriate ways to communicate and share on the Internet? How can we all be aware of the ‘Digital Footprint’ we are leaving? How can we share with colleagues, students and community?
George Couros spoke of our kids looking up and modeling what we do and requiring our guidance. He speaks of teachers needing to model/learn/humanize. The world is changing around us and we can either stand around, let it control us or embrace it and use it to create better learners, better students and better citizens.
Moving forward will require each of us to look at our own roles as ‘Educational Leaders’. With reflection do we oppose actions or change because of how it will affect us or because it doesn’t match the school’s mission or vision? As educator’s we have an important responsibility in creating society’s leaders of the future. Will we create those citizens that will know to report abuses on the Internet? Will we continue to fall victim to having images of rape, violence and cruelty going viral. Will we guide our students into understanding the importance of not being a bystander? Will we all work together where student’s learning to read means inspiring critical thought, developing imagination and being a place where every student also leaves our school knowing their basic facts? When students leave our schools will their exit slips be filled with the comments like; my school is a place where teachers care but also a place where I discovered the love of learning and myself.
Each of us will have different roles as we strengthen our school’s learning and cultural environment. It will be up to each of us to determine how we can ‘Make a Difference.’