We Remember September 11th!

Our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001 and our world changed. Muslim terrorists called al-Qaeda, with training camps all around the world were responsible for the death of the more than 3,000 victims. This is an enemy unlike any we have ever faced. There are multiple countries, multiple fronts and multiple threats.

This enemy is committed to the absolute destruction of the American way of life and imposing their beliefs and values upon the world. In their world, law is determined by force—those with power—whether military strength or political dominance—make the rules. It is our belief in freedom, human rights, idealism, personal responsibility and economic opportunity that extremists dislike the most.

If you were a classroom teacher today how would you address the events of September 11, 2001 with your students? Would you blame the incident on the very people who lost their lives? Would you blame those with a misguided ideology for killing innocent people? To me, the answer is very apparent. And those who would blame victims or our nation are siding with evil-doers and promoting savagery.

Since Jeremiah Wright first shocked our nation with his comment in 2008, parroting a Malcolm X phrase, that ‘America’s chickens are coming home to roost,’ which was widely understood as meaning that America brought the September 11 attacks upon itself. Every year that has passed since 2001 that sentiment has been voiced in one manner or another. Eventually that will end up in our classrooms and textbooks. My fear is that the victims will be posthumously put on trial while the terrorists are seen as genial freedom fighters. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems to many that we treat perpetrators of evil kinder than we treat their victims in our society. It is an obvious assault on law and order. It is law which enables man to live together, and creates order out of chaos. We first and foremost a nation of laws. Founding Father and future president John Adams called America ‘a nation of laws, not of men.’ These rules should not be subject to the whims of those in power. And those who fail to understand history in the proper context will write textbooks to inform future generations. It is why curriculum has been such a highly debated issue.

Historian Bruce Kauffmann wrote about ‘the Soviet Union’s infamous dictator, Josef Stalin, who in the late 1930s had millions of innocent people incarcerated and murdered after they underwent show trials, or no trials, in which the ‘nature and cause of the accusation’ against them were such specifically identified and legally provable crimes as being ‘foreign agents,’ ‘counterrevolutionaries,’ ‘enemies of the people’ or ‘enemies of the state.’ Have we become so politically correct that only one opinion is allowed?

I accept that countries lie to their citizens, and that we are, regrettably, governed by men and women who are sometimes corrupt. That is undesirable, but it is a fact of life. Often choices made by government is not between good and bad, but between bad and worse. We have done exactly what George Washington warned us against by embracing entangling alliances. We have largely abandoned our Judeo-Christian heritage, in fear of lawsuits and in the name of inclusion. However, we still have the rule of law, right?

I am reminded of Robert Kennedy’s speech in which he was discussing the law. He said about the law: ‘The road ahead is full of difficulties and discomforts. But as for me, I welcome the challenge. I welcome the opportunity, and I pledge to you my best effort — all I have in material things and physical strength and spirit to see that freedom shall advance and that our children will grow old under the rule of law.’

People of reason can disagree with issues and have civil discourse. ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,’ according to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Who also reminded us that culture, not politics, determines the success of society. Respect of our fellow human beings is the core outgrowth of a nation committed under a rule of law. It is our shared history in America, and one in which we must be personally committed to follow. That is the real lesson to teach. If we fail to pass that to the next generation, freedom, the political process, civil liberties, individual rights and media independence will be lost to the dustbin of history and no longer tolerated.

We must remember September 11th in our homes and in our classrooms and engage in this important dialogue. Never let it be said that the flame of freedom was extinguished on our watch. That can be summed up in two words: We Remember.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

We Give Thanks this Thanksgiving

1 thanks photo-verse-jpg-barefoot-manI used to keep a framed picture in my classroom: “Your Life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your Life is your gift to God.” I wish every child could hear that repeated every day. And what teachers do with their gift benefits so many children on a daily basis. Teachers are often on the front line of the poverty battle. It is important that children know from where their gifts originate. This Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to be thankful for the gift of life we have and the gift of others in our lives.

I grew up with the knowledge I wasn’t any better than anyone else, but nobody else was better than me. Because my parents understood that we were all created in the image of God. I believe that we should never be intimidated by those in power. Power is perception, and people who have it over you do so because you give it to them in most instances. Bono, of the rock group U2 in a Rolling Stone interview said: “I don’t fear politicians or presidents. They should be afraid. They’ll be accountable for what happened on their watch.” Too often unelected bureaucrats exert influence over our lives and careers. We need to look closely at the issue of the legitimacy of power.

I have worked with many faith and community organizations and it seems to me that many of the problems they seek to address have one root cause: poverty. I take the problems of global poverty much more serious, and have noticed a rise in poverty in both urban and rural America.

It is the best American tradition of helping others help themselves. Now is an opportune time for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of our nation and the world. I see a passion for compassion diminishing in America. Government simply cannot meet the needs of all citizens. Faith and community organizations need help. They need your time and efforts. They need your money and support. We should embrace government partnership with faith-based organizations and other non-profit community organizations to do the work of fighting poverty and other issues.

To his credit, President George W. Bush recognized the poverty problem when he said: “The growing divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is both a challenge to our compassion and a source of instability. We must confront it.” “We cannot,” said the president, “leave behind half of humanity as we seek a better future for ourselves. We cannot accept permanent poverty in a world of progress. There are no second-class citizens in the human race.”

Bono added, “It’s an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. This should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it’s become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it’s ‘difficult’ justify our own inaction. Let’s be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don’t have is the will, and that’s not a reason that history will accept.”

Poor and starving people are not particularly appealing news stories, but fighting poverty is and should be a moral imperative for citizens in our cities, state and nation. Educators are often on the frontlines‎.

Faith reminds us that theological apathy is not an acceptable excuse. Yes, “the poor will always be with us.” However, Jesus, in his first sermon said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

As we sit in our comfortable pews on Sunday morning singing about what it is like up there, we should remember that the poverty of spirit as equally lamentable to poverty of physical wealth. This Thanksgiving we should be thankful for both the small and large blessing in our lives. If you are a parent and your child is about to enter the world, it would be a great comfort to know that your country will use all of its resources to meet the most basic needs of all citizens, so they can succeed in our country.

To paraphase an oft cited poem, if you want to touch the face of God or His heart, it is not necessary to escape the surly bonds of Earth. Take an interest in the things that interest God. Do not be so eager to grow old or love your children as long as they will let you. Eliminate some of those nonessential things that clutter our lives. Recognize what is really essential: faith, family and friends. Embrace others. Treat everybody with dignity and respect. Lose control, let God love through you. Don’t fear the politicians. Hold them accountable. God will indeed hold us all accountable.

Think of those less fortunate this year before your Thanksgiving prayers, those in poverty whose plates are often empty. We are incapable of breaking the cycle of poverty without all of us working together. The number of hungry people in the world reached nearly 800 million, a harsh reminder that the world has yet to get serious about the challenge of ending hunger. We can make a difference, can’t we? ‎

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.