In the Wake of Congresswoman Giffords Shooting, What Are Our Kids Learning at School?

Martin Luther King, Jr.

What are our kids learning about senseless acts of violence?

Last night, I lay in bed with my kids while my first-grader read us her newest library book: “A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Her school and her class have been studying about Dr. King in anticipation of next week’s holiday. Julia quietly read passages like:

“In 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. began his first job as a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. The next year Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested in Montgomery for sitting in the ‘White Only’ section of the bus.”

Then, my daughter would abruptly put the book down and sit straight up to interject comments like:

“Now, let me tell you about Rosa Parks! She was tired. And she just wanted to sit down on the bus, and when a white man told her to move, she decided to stand up for herself, and that was a good thing to do!”

Then she’d pick up the book, and continue reading:

“In 1964, Dr. King was awarded one of the greatest honors any man can win, the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Except that, when she was sounding it out, Julia pronounced it as “noble” peace prize, and when I corrected her, she said:

“Mom! Are you sure? Don’t you think it should be noble peace prize?”

Julia is clearly animated about and interested in the subject. And I’d like to thank her teachers and her school for that. Especially this week, as our nation witnessed the senseless shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and as people have been quick to point out that the state of political discourse in this country (for instance, Katie’s blog on Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” map) has in no small part contributed to this type of violence. I’m so glad to know that—at least in our schools this week—our children are learning about concepts like free speech and peaceful protest and one man’s dream for a world free of hate, prejudice, and violence.

My daughter is too little to know about the news of congresswoman Gifford’s shooting. But, this week in school, she learned that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated by a lone gunman for standing up for his beliefs. She learned why that’s wrong, and about responding to violence with peace, and to hate with love. At least our teachers are reinforcing this message for our children. But, why does it have to take an act of violence, like congresswoman Giffords’ shooting, for our political leaders to do the same?

Photo: Creative Commons/Flickr, cliff1066™

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