Education and Politics


From across the state, I am hearing stories from educators who are feeling unsettled and uncertain as we face a political climate in which our students and their families have reason to be afraid. Incidents of harassment are on the rise, so much so that the Massachusetts Attorney General's office has established a hotline - which received more than 300 calls in four days - for those experiencing harassment, threats, vandalism and bullying.

A recent New York Times article recounts similar stories across the country, and an educator wrote a moving letter to The Boston Globe about the effect of the current climate on her students.

This is real. Many educators are confused about how to respond. Some are fearful of taking a political stand. A few are angry that the MTA takes political positions. And some are ready to make strong statements and take action to assert that we will love and protect students, families and colleagues who feel threatened.

At a moment such as this, we should reflect on what it means to be political. To engage in political conversation and action is much more than, and can be quite distinct from, elections and "party politics." Politics is about active engagement in creating the communities we want in terms of culture, economics and social structures. In a vibrant democracy, politics is everywhere.

Education is, therefore, a political endeavor. Public education, which is foundational to our democracy, entails decisions that have to do with how we know ourselves and the world, the questions we ask, the actions we take, and the world we are building. How we do this is complicated and requires lots and lots of conversation.

As a union, we have taken and will continue to take political positions. I recommend that you look at the MTA Resolutions, passed over the years by delegates to the MTA Annual Meeting. They assert our commitment to economic and racial justice, fully funding public education, protecting the rights of immigrants, maintaining professional autonomy and respect, and other political issues.

We now face a moment when we have to ask ourselves: "How will we live up to those resolutions?"  

In several locals across the state, students, educators, families and community members are gathering this week to say: We value the beautiful diversity of our students and their families, and we will do what we need to do to protect them.   

And some are signing on to this pledge from the NEA.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will need to continue to be visible in our support of our students and their families and vocal in our defense of our right to speak out. But we also need to reach across differences to build the connections that strengthen our union and our communities.  

Reach out to union sisters and brothers. Talk about what is happening, how you feel, and how you are making sense of the current political context and your place in it. Reach out to students and parents. Ask them how they feel, how they are making sense of the current political context and how we can act together in it.  

As we turn toward Thanksgiving, I am profoundly grateful to lead a union of educators committed to the students, communities and public schools of Massachusetts. Our connections make us stronger - give us courage - will win a better world.   

In solidarity,