Stephanie Rivera wrote an excellent blog post about the need to create space in the classroom to talk about trauma, self-harm, and rape. She mentioned recent suicides and mass shootings across the country and the horrific rape case at Steubenville High School. How can teachers and students make classrooms into places where we can heal from this trauma, and where the underlying causes of mass trauma and oppression can be examined and confronted collectively?
We can only do that if we confront the sexism and rape culture that permeates so many schools, making them unsafe places for young women, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQ folks. That requires creating intentional space for solidarity, healing, and power. And that takes time and trust.
It is disheartening to hear some education professors say, “it’s a shame there may be no chance for you to implement these tactics in your classroom because of the raising emphasis on high-stakes testing.” If I won’t be able to implement something as simple as a classroom structure based on discussion where my students sit in a circle, what can I do?
What a twisted system to be investing in an education that is teaching me how to teach, only to enter into a system where such skills aren’t even valued.
Today’s education is so strongly associated with academics, that we often forget this is a place where our youth come to learn how to be. Our youth spend majority of their “growing-up years” here. Yet, for some reason, education is not our country’s top priority. For some reason, so many people still want to look at school as a business, a place to train obedience, a place where students are led to believe that only importance of school is getting good grades, passing tests, and going onto college.
This is why I fight.
That’s also why we fight. The struggle against standardized testing here in Seattle should also be about opening up space to heal from trauma and to confront gendered violence and all forms of oppression and control. We need time to do that, time we will not have if we waste it on preparing to take standardized tests.
Folks from around the country are also coming together to try to do something about the rape at Steubenville. This blog is part of an effort to make demands on the Steubenville High School administration to drastically change the culture at the school. The goal is to raise the consequences for rape in order to prevent future violence, not just there but in our own communities across the country.
If you support this effort, please indicate your support in the comments section of their blog. But more importantly, please organize in your own school and community to create space to have these discussions, to heal, and to confront rape culture. This doesn’t just happen in Midwest towns like Steubenville, it also happens here in “liberal” Seattle, and we have the same responsibility as anyone else to stop it in our own communities.