On the morning of November 9, many of us woke up in a mournful daze, pausing to reflect on an uncertain future or fearing the worst. Teachers across America woke before sunrise, got dressed, and headed to their classrooms to continue fighting the good fight. Some teachers gave impromptu lessons on civics and government. Others discussed the meaning of the previous night’s results within a historical context. Many, however, especially those whose students would be directly impacted by the incoming administration’s threats, set academics aside and promised, without hesitation, to protect each of their students come what may.
Their fight isn’t sexy. There’s no instant gratification. They don’t get to brand their fight with adorable pink knitted hats or promote it on the morning show circuit. Their fight doesn’t qualify for Pulitzers, cannot be measured in Likes or Retweets, and cannot be captured in a meme. The fight is slow and steady. Continuous and persistent. It will be measured in graduates, leaders and in the accomplishments of a new generation of Americans that values humanity and social justice over profits and privilege.
Indeed, teachers have become our most valuable activists, battling oppression from the front lines through the daily dissemination of truth and knowledge. And never has that dissemination been more urgent and critical. In a 1984 address, civil rights leader Cesar Chávez affirmed the value of education. He said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”