Racist image is a teachable moment
Sometimes mistakes make the best lessons. Teachers know this. They help students incorporate errors into the learning process by reviewing the work, identifying where they went wrong and discovering a better way to do it next time. Parents know t...
Sometimes mistakes make the best lessons.
Teachers know this. They help students incorporate errors into the learning process by reviewing the work, identifying where they went wrong and discovering a better way to do it next time.
Parents know this, too, especially when it comes to behaviors. When a child says or does something hurtful to others, the adults around them - parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and teachers - identify the mistake and provide the child with a kinder, more thoughtful way to speak and act. In this way, beliefs and values are developed and the cultural nature of families and communities are passed on.
When mistakes are especially egregious there are consequences, often serious. Consequences are part of the learning process. Whether family values, school rules or laws, they help people learn what is acceptable and not acceptable. They can also help a young person understand that they will be held responsible for the actions they take, now and when they become adults.
Years ago, a child's poor decision may have been seen or heard by a handful of people before being corrected. Today, young people hold access to the entire world in the palms of their hands through technology. The ability to hurt others can be shared in an instant with thousands of people to see, hear and respond.
A recent example of how hurtful this can be became evident in our community when two students "snap-chatted" an altered photo of another student. The alterations and captioning were racist in nature and involved references to lynching, shocking by any measure but especially when coming from young people. The picture was rapidly reposted and shared by others through social media. The ripple effect quickly sent the disturbing image to larger and larger audiences throughout the community.
Such images are not acceptable. The consequences for the students involved in creating and distributing them are serious.
In discussions with local leaders, we've heard a desire that this incident be used as an opportunity for the community to come together and for learning to occur, for the students, the schools and for Duluth as a whole.
That's good advice. Rather than let mistakes define who we are, let's learn from them so we can do better in the future. Use the experience, not so much to shame and blame but as a way to bring us closer together as a community, to grow in our ability to understand and accept each other, and most importantly, to help our young people do the same.
Bill Gronseth is the superintendent of Duluth Public Schools. Contact him at (218) 336-8752 or email email@example.com .