Dear “anti-woke” school board trustee candidates,
Congratulations, you’ve made the national news! That’s quite an accomplishment. (I’d say you should be proud, but I know “pride” might be a triggering concept for you.)
When I read the things you say about your vision for our schools, whether through the news or social media, they tend to fall into a few main hackneyed categories:
- Stop teaching anti-racism – that’s anti-white!
- Stop teaching about trans people – you’ll corrupt everyone!
- Let everyone be free and have choice and feel respected and safe!
Your obliviousness to this massive contradiction would be funny, almost cute in its naïveté, if it weren’t so sad.
You see, I’m a teacher of young children. Like my colleagues, I make an effort to understand where the people I interact with are coming from, so that I have compassion for their struggles.
You, the anti-woke trustee wannabes, are clearly struggling. So, in spite of my general annoyance with you, I am working to muster up all the understanding that I can for you.
My first reaction, when I’m reading what you write, is basically, “Ugh. This is so last century.” As in, smoking-is-good-for-you, jellied-salads-are-delicious, let’s-make-the-entire-kitchen-seafoam-green last century.
You evoke a nostalgia for the good ol’ days of loud straight white supremacy, a definite MAGA vibe, which we all know is great for inspiring bad behaviour…. Not so great for helping people to feel respected and safe. There must be an explanation for this hypocrisy, right?
What are you really going through?
When I think harder about your words, advocating so hard for an anti-woke future, I can see the fear. I can hear the note of desperation. It makes me sad for you. Perhaps you think you sound fierce and decisive and ready for business or some such, but you give yourself away. When you talk about social change as “dangerous”, it’s obvious that you’re panicking a bit. You don’t know what you’re dealing with, and it freaks you out.
It’s understandable, in a way. They say that early humans would stick to their own social groups, viewing outside groups as “other”, and therefore dangerous, in order to protect themselves. Nowadays, we have learned a lot about our species and how very, very similar we all are – but I guess for some, it can be difficult to use thought instead of reaction when faced with a person we don’t understand. Maybe that’s the stage you’re at.
You see danger in social change, in diversity of voices, in schools teaching acceptance and openness. The push in Ontario (and all over the world) for Equity/Diversity/Inclusion (EDI) policies looks like a scary weapon to you. These movements threaten your self-concept so much that you think you’re being attacked, all the time. That must be a stressful and exhausting way to live, seeing enemies and constantly lashing out.
Though not as stressful as the lives of those who actually ARE being attacked. All the time. People of colour, gender-diverse and queer people. People who have had to fight to be treated with respect, for generations. Gosh, thank goodness you are not part of those legions.
Are you sure you’re really being attacked? Do you really need to strike from a place of fear all the time?
Also, are you really ready for this Trustee job? Did you do the work?
Because the other aspect of your situation might be laziness. Change takes work. Especially when you’ve come from the straight, white, middle-class masses in this country, dichotomy feels nice and simple. It’s a lot easier not to have to learn about how other people have suffered and continue to suffer. It’s way more comfortable not to consider the profound ways in which other people might be different from you, while also being beautiful and worthy.
Are you applying for this job with no new knowledge? (Your unexamined opinion is not knowledge, by the way.) Have you built your ugly platform without even trying to grow? A “Trustee” is a person who receives trust. Who is entrusted with making decisions for the good of the entire community. How can you be that if you are discounting members of that community? Have you been formulating your narrow beliefs about other people without ever attempting to understand those people? If so, then you are hopelessly unqualified to make decisions for our education system.
Even if you weren’t campaigning for trusteehood, it’s your civic duty as a grown-up to go outside your little echo chamber. Yes, sometimes that may not be easy, and it may not be comfortable. There are tricky moments and awkwardness when you’re learning and growing. But you’re petitioning to work in Education – did you really think “easy” and “comfortable” were going to be relevant descriptors?
Besides, there is so much beautiful literature written by the people you deny and invalidate. So much amazing music, so many high-quality videos and podcasts, so many ways to learn and understand. I honestly believe that you would feel your soul ease if you made the effort to understand other people better. At this point, there is no excuse for ignorance except a lack of effort.
In the end, it’s your ignorance that is dangerous.
Somewhere deep inside, if there’s any kind of critical thinker in you, you must know that your anti-woke rhetoric is making people unsafe. You preach respect and then spew disrespect. You want some kids to feel safe, and others to feel… nullified. That is full-on nonsense.
If you think your gross inconsistencies are going to make at least your own children safer, think again. It’s a bit like the gun control issue: we see clearly, here in Canada, that more guns = more gun violence. Likewise, more people spouting hate = more hate circulating. (Yes, denying the existence or validity of someone’s identity/experience counts as hate.) More instability, more fear, more violence all around. It’s not safer for anyone. And you never know when you might inadvertently invalidate the experience of someone you love – even your own child.
Here’s what I really want to say.
1) You’re not winning this. Whether or not you win your election to become a trustee, this cat is out of the bag. It is pointless to deny the existence of gender diversity – your kids can see with their own eyes that it’s a thing. It is too late to tell people that anti-racist work is unnecessary – the evidence of its urgency is vast, and way too accessible to hide. And you are part of that evidence.
Diverse people aren’t going to stop existing, and they – and their allies – are now equipped with the language to make their experiences understood. The work has begun, and will not be laid down. It will only grow.
2) It’s not so bad over here in Woke-land. In fact, it is amazing to see the difference it can make when children feel validated in their experiences. Validating uniqueness is a way to set all children free. And kids feel that. They can be incredibly flexible with their hearts, if we refrain from teaching them hate in the first place. Children who feel empowered to be themselves are immensely influential. They are the future.
Instead of ranting around in your small, closed box of anti-woke rage, you could lay down your fear. You and your community would be better served by a true trustee, in whom all kinds of people could place their actual trust.
P.S.: Dear municipal voters, please look into your candidates to make sure you know what principles you’re voting for. It has become clear that we cannot afford to vote haphazardly when it comes to our communities. Here are links to the lists for Kitchener, Hamilton, Cambridge, and Guelph.