The first couple of books for the lower grades were obviously easy to read, with little to no thought needed to ponder moral or ethical issues. Maybe I shouldn't have started with the easiest books.
Then I got into books dealing with hard issues like racial discrimination and the holocaust and personal freedoms and animal rights and substance abuse. Man, these teachers don't mess around.
I struggled with the brutality of such topics. Two books, My Brother Sam Is Dead and The Boy Who Dared forced me to look at two periods of history from whole new perspectives. I was challenged to fit different points of view into my preexisting paradigms.
As troubling as it was to assimilate, I also struggled over and over again with two questions: "What do I teach my students ? Who am I to teach them through my lens of right and wrong?"
We're nearly finished with our summer tutoring sessions, and the same questions plague me. This fall I will be teaching middle school social studies for the first time, and the questions lay heavy on my mind.
I take my conservative Christian faith out and put it along side thoughts and ideas and perspectives that will float around my classroom this fall. I believed my faith would be like the lens of a camera, bringing right and wrong clearly into focus.
I was wrong.
Oddly enough, this summer my young millennials have been more concerned about the minutia of main characters' lives than with the overwhelming issues. Great, a brief postponement. But I already know most the kids I will be teaching this fall, so I need to bear in mind it's a postponement, not a reprieve.
I was raised to be a Christian and a patriot. The path was clear and sure. Clear and sure until my own son crept up on the age of signing up for the draft. For three years I stumbled over what had been carved in stone for my family.
September 11, 2001, my son was waiting when I walked in the door. Looking and sounding like the man he'd become in a few short hours, he looked me in the eye and told me he didn't agree with war, but if he was called he would go. Once again, the path was clear and sure.
So, I'll look at these children on their way to adulthood and when they ask, I will tell them. I will tell them that because my dad risked it all, because my son and my brother were willing to risk it all, I have a right to pledge my allegiance to my faith and my flag. The blood of American martyrs makes it my duty to stand up for what's right and resist what's wrong.
I may not have a bullhorn and be preaching on street corners, but when they ask, and they will, I'll know what to tell them about deciding what's right and what's wrong.
Some questions grab our hearts and our minds and jerk them around like a dog with a bone. Perhaps you've long since settled who decides what's right and wrong. How did you move from burning questions to knowing that you know? Was there an event or person who helped you on the journey?
If I may be so bold, I would greatly appreciate your prayers this school year as I interact with young adults over questions of right and wrong. Thank you for joining me as we tread this treacherous path.