Arthur Camins, lifelong educators, knows that teachers can’t change what happens in the next few months, other than by casting their votes. But they can rebuild the foundation of our society by teaching these three things: empathy, ethics, and evidence.

He writes:

My driving force has always been a core assumption: What happens in classrooms has a significant influence on how students think and behave when they emerge into adulthood, and hence when they vote and interact with one another.

I hope students grow up to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I hope they develop the tools to make sense of the natural and social environments in which they live. I hope they develop confidence and passion to act to influence the personal, social, political circumstances around them based on human values.

I know I am not alone in these hopes. I know that most educators are trying. I know most Americans share these hopes. I know that many of us are frustrated and angry that our common dreams for students’ futures are being thwarted. School systems are being diverted from what matters most by persistent inequity and racism, high-stakes testing, efforts to privatize and monetize education, and most recently by pandemic disruption of in-person learning.

I know this: Despite and in response to the challenges, all of us– not just educators and parents– must demand that teaching should focus on what matters most: empathy, ethics, and evidence. Those essential foci cut across all subject areas, all grades, and whether students are engaged at home or in school. Students may lose facts, concepts may fade, and skills may wither but they, like the rest of us, remember how we were treated. In the short term, that influences how, whether, and what students learn. More important, it influences how they will see one another and act as humans for a lifetime.