Educators, the First Responders for Democracy

American flag in front of blackboard - Educators, the First Responders for Democracy“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

As educators, we have confronted monumental challenges this year, and yet, have managed to still make great strides. In mid-March, while closing our classrooms due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we found ways to educate our students virtually. Amidst mounting challenges, educators united to ensure that our nation’s children were able to continue learning.

Then, just as we were discovering coping mechanisms to live amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we bore witness to incredible injustice and racial bias with the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. Educators heeded the call for justice, uniting with the community at large, to show that racism will not be tolerated. But despite having met these challenges head on, we cannot rest upon our laurels. The battles that lie ahead are too important and necessary to protect the core of our democracy.

Educators are our nation’s first responders for democracy. Our primary goal is to improve the lives of students through education. To accomplish our mission, we must create environments where all children, regardless of their race or socio-economic background, can learn and excel. Secondly, we must teach our students the skills and model the values of an informed and compassionate citizenry.

AACTE calls upon the educator preparation community and all educators to engage in the courageous actions needed to educate for change and disrupt racial inequities. Through our shared vision and a renewed sense of dedication, we can revolutionize education by upholding high standards in the preparation of future teachers, develop inclusive curriculum and evidence-based instructional strategies, and serve as advocates that dismantle racial oppression. However, we cannot do it alone. Our local, state, and federal government leaders must believe in and support our mission.

As the election nears, now is the time to vote for candidates who will advance our nation by investing in our students and providing the funding needed to support grant funding, raise salaries for teachers, implement technological initiatives that will eradicate the digital divide, and so much more. We must elect government leaders who will advocate for policies that advance culturally inclusive classrooms and provide all students the opportunity to succeed. As educators who can inform and influence this change, your voices must be heard. Your vote has never been more important, to both the future of education and our democracy at large.

I am extremely proud of the work AACTE and its members have accomplished this year in confronting obstacles placed in our path and promoting our common goal of elevating education and educator preparation through research, professional practice, advocacy, and collaboration. And while we have come so far, we cannot afford to stand on the sidelines now. Amplify our collective voice by making your vote count. To quote Abraham Lincoln, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Lynn M. Gangone, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

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