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Schools should be community hubs that prepare people for the skills we will need going forward to live through climate change. (Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

Schools should be community hubs that prepare people for the skills we will need going forward to live through climate change. (Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

Teachers Should Join the Student Strikes

Students are striking for a future—educators should join them.

Jessica GarrawayDavid Boenke

On September 20th millions of students across the globe are taking a stand with student strikes – demanding action on climate change so they, and our grandchildren may survive and thrive. 

Now, adults have been called on to join the strikes. We believe educators should be the first to join them.

K12 educators, even in the United States, have shown the ability to shake history with mass strikes over the last decade—but it is time to utilize our power beyond typical wage and hour issues. It is time to strike to save life on earth, and to reimagine and resource what schools can and need to become to do so.

These changes are urgent and interrelated. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—an impeccably credentialed, conservative scientific body – has declared that we have 11 more years to make drastic changes or face climate catastrophe. The reality is likely far worse, or far far worse. 

To save life on earth, students are striking for the future. They have grown from one child with a Swedish sign to 1.6 million students in 100 countries. Students are inciting a mass movement.

Educators need to join them. Our participation would add our moral and economic weight to the issues and encourage all communities and unionized sectors to go out. We could model how we not only  refuse to accept the status quo but could also fundamentally re-envision the world we live in. If all union workers went out the economy would shut down. If all workers or communities struck for living wages and living planet, we’d have the power to transform the fabric of the world.

Schools in their current formation are separate from the real world and the communities of students. Even with bread and butter concessions schools are not currently places where students and community members can learn and prepare for the coming times ahead. 

Beyond the student strikes it is time we envision education suited to the changing world we are in. Schools should be community hubs that prepare people for the skills we will need going forward to live through climate change. Instead of being separate from the real world of communities and climate change schools can become their beating heart. Our schools should be lifeboats for communities preparing and going through present and future storms. They should help us transition to a new way of living on this planet. From tending classroom community to tending the infrastructure and ecology of our world. 

Schools need to have – and teach children and adults to run – the infrastructure of a new society. How to grow food and nurture soil, create community power and water systems. How to maintain and transform culture. How to build and transport naturally, manufacture and reuse technology. We must care for ourselves through disasters – big and small – while welcoming and learning from refugees and our ancestors. We need an education that allows us to dance and dream, produce and create, survive and thrive. The world is ours to save.

On the 20th let it begin in the streets and continue into the classroom going forward. Teachers who are interested in supporting students, striking, and/or organizing teachers in your school to do the same, here is an online pledge you can sign/share! 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Jessica Garraway

Jessica Garraway

Jessica Garraway has worked as a substitute teacher for three years. She has been organizing and writing on matters such as wealth disparity, racism, LGBT liberation, women’s liberation, and environmental issues for over 10 years. In recent years her work has been predominantly focused on environmental/climate justice. She was active in the fight to stop the building of what would have been the first Tar Sands mine in the US, the Keystone, and the Dakota Access pipelines. Jessica was a founding member of the Mississippi Stand mobile caravan that cost the company Energy Transfer millions of dollars through a number of lockdowns to equipment and blockades. Her current work is focused on stopping the Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota and being a local coordinator for the Twin Cities Extinction Rebellion chapter.  Follow Jessica on twitter @Deeplyjessica

David Boenke

David Boenke has worked in the school system for 10 years as a support staff and social studies teacher. He is a longtime volunteer labor and racial justice organizer, a core member of Jimmy John's Workers Union, Social Justice Education Movement, and currently with the Incarcerated Organizing Workers Committee. A writer, trainer, and visionary, he lives in North Minneapolis.

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