On October 14, 1964, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On that historic occasion, the Nobel Committee praised him for being ‘‘the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence.” For Dr. King, nonviolence was at the heart of the movement to challenge the government to correct centuries of racism and injustice resulting in a civil rights bill.
Today, the struggle continues and in the same spirit as Dr. King, we, representatives of America’s school superintendents, call for a new nonviolent movement to persuade our nation’s leaders to prioritize the social and emotional development of students, especially in our urban centers, to end violence and create a safer, kinder world for us all.
We refuse to accept that students cannot reach their full potential when we know all students can be taught the skills, like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making, to reach their hopes and dreams. When we arm them with these skills, we hope to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring and contributing members of society. Once empowered with a toolbox that will help them cope with the volatility of the world, the next generation will be able to seize the opportunities inherent in it. Therefore, we need the leaders of this great country to empower schools and communities to be places that motivate students to discover and pursue their dreams for the future and above all #SELectLOVE.
We refuse to accept a new “civil rights” revolution focused on policy alone but instead call for an educational movement in public school districts across the country focused on reshaping school culture that will bring about long-lasting positive change. Coming from dozens of cities around the nation and representing almost two million children, we have begun to reshape the practice of teaching and learning in our districts to integrate the most powerful principles of social and emotional development with the traditional focus on academic learning to create schools that inspire children from the inside out.
As Collaborating Districts Initiative superintendents and partner superintendents with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), we refuse to accept the status quo and demand a national imperative to do things differently.
We need leaders at the top to support our work in a bold way.
We need a Presidential Executive Order to harness the power of the federal government and begin to channel a coordinated and comprehensive effort to support schools.
We need more powerful partnerships with business leaders who see the need for intrapersonal and interpersonal skills as the key to workforce development.
We need a national conversation that captures the creativity and unique experiences of our youth.
We need a national effort to bring to life what Aristotle understood thousands of years ago when he said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
We, the country’s urban school superintendents on the front lines of both possibility and despair, refuse to accept violence in urban centers and schools any longer, and call for our nation to unite to create educational mandates for peace just as Dr. King did 50 years ago.
Students in our schools are in dire need of support in developing critical life skills. While we are providing that support, we cannot do it alone and we need help. The science shows that social, emotional and academic learning together produce results. Economists have shown us that this approach is cost effective. Teachers overwhelmingly endorse it. Kids respond to it.
The urgency for this movement reached a peak decades ago. The time for action to create a better future for our children is now.
It is time to unite around a powerful new vision of what it means to teach and learn. It is time that every child benefits from the lasting impact of social and emotional learning. It is time to call our nation to action to create a powerful new paradigm that will help transform our schools.
We saw a good start with the recent launch of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development by the Aspen Institute. This commission will identify specific action steps in research, practice, and policy and includes prominent leaders from education, science, government and the private sector serving on the Commission. The diverse group includes two sitting Governors, a Google executive, a university chancellor and a retired four-star Air Force general.
The next step is to get everyone on board. Go to www.CASEL.org today, and join the movement with us and the many thousands around the country championing the work of SEL.
In accepting his Nobel Prize on December 10, 1964, Dr. King said in his remarks, “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
We choose to #SELectLove.
Dr. Meria Carstarphen, Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools
Mr. José Banda, Superintendent, Sacramento City Unified School District
Mr. Juan Cabrera, JD, Superintendent, El Paso Independent School District
Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Dr. Paul Cruz, Superintendent, Austin Independent School District
Ms. Traci Davis, Superintendent, Washoe County School District
Mr. Eric Gordon, CEO, Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Dr. Deena Paramo, Superintendent, Anchorage School District
Mr. Antwan Wilson, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District