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If Not Us?

That famous JFK speech reinvigorated by Emma Watson during HeforShe: if not now, when? If not me, who? 

I want to talk about limits. Personal, professional, societal. 

Cate if not us

I’d like to think that the majority of educators or those working with young people are caring, empathetic individuals. They are the sort of people who have elastic limits. Their patience can be stretched, their reservoirs of compassion tapped further than most, and their concentration and effort spread thinly between multiple tasks. 

These people are the flexible glue of society. Educating means adjusting yourself constantly. Re-examining your views, training, thoughts, beliefs. Never really being FIXED on anything because there is always more to know and understand. 

But we all have limits. 

My limit is when profit prospers over people. When grades garner more glory than basic human decency and kindness. When the well-being and overall happiness of humans is ignored in pursuit of standards set arbitrarily. 

I look at the world around me and think about what my education equipped me with that is needed in today’s world; 

  • I’m literate,
  • Vaguely numerate, 
  • Articulate,
  • Qualified (although what for is actually a mystery really!),
  • Dedicated.

These are fine attributes. I have my parents to thank for a head start on most of them, but what I think I have that are of most use right now are the following;

  • Empathy,
  • Passion,
  • Kindness,
  • Critical thinking,
  • Bravery to speak up,
  • Integrity and honesty,
  • Connection with other humans.

We neglect the social skills at the heart of education at our peril. They may seem soft, wishy-washy, and “snowflakey” but they are the characteristics that set us apart and above in evolution. The ability to question and not follow blindly. The ability to show kindness in an unkind world. The bravery to know and demonstrate our values in everything we say and do. I’m so proud that so many educators have empowered young people by equipping them with these vital skills but there is more that can be done. 

Imagine an education that is not structured around “becoming something” like a 9 or a graduate or professional or high earner but is instead focused on “becoming someone” who makes life better for all, who relishes and enjoys their short life on earth, who cares and is able to show that passion freely, openly and vibrantly. 

Educators have enormous power to enact change. We CAN say, ‘NO MORE’. We can shape curriculum and policy on the ground despite what higher orders may dictate. We can because we are MANY!!! United we are strong, clever, and valuable. 

Perhaps I’m deluded and am actually standing alone in this but as an adult in a very troubling world that needs to see grass roots change and fast, I have to ask: if not us? Who?

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The author

Cate has been a teacher for 20 years. She has worked internationally and across all key stages in the UK. Her secondary specialism is Performing Arts with a keen interest in PSHE/RSE. Cate is recently married with two cats who keep her busy and an allotment that requires more time than she can give it!

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