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College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Seek Truth, Speak Truth, and Be the Truth

The last few weeks – actually the last many months, have been a time in our nation when truth has become a commodity. Those who dare “speak truth to power” must remain courageous, bold, and truthful while remaining clear, consistent, and unyielding regarding essential core values of respect and intolerance for the vitriol of hate.

As a new semester at colleges and universities dawns across the country, and P-12 schools also begin a new academic year, educators and students alike must embrace truth, reject the intentionality of false inference, and express disdain for intolerance. Educators must assertively and consistently “speak truth.”

One important “truth” is for educators – at every level of education from PK to graduate school – to forcefully “call out” hate in any form. Most dramatically, to reject the form of hate that recently was displayed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Free speech is an American value. Hate speech, discrimination, anti-Semitism, and abject disdain for others are not free speech. Violence is not permitted behavior. Americans, today and over the course of our history, have forged a democracy based on a respect for law. Lawlessness must not be tolerated.

An appreciation and respect for difference is not condoning behavior – or rhetoric – that demeans. An appreciation for “all sides” is not possible when one side seeks to discriminate and do harm.

Recent events must be a lesson. Discriminatory beliefs are not isolated to one group, community, or region. The roots of discrimination – and hate, disdain, and intolerance – run deep. We must reject such beliefs and never permit them to sprout on our ground.

Mahatma Gandhi, the slain Indian leader who inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world using tactics of non-violence, stated, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is our challenge, and this is our opportunity in our classrooms to be models for our students and leaders in our communities. To be the “change” that promotes the best of our nation’s values.

It is our responsibility as educators – a sacred covenant of responsibility – to teach our students to respect others and never condone intolerance or hatred. In our world today, especially in Virginia and other parts of the United States, as educators we must be a model in the words of the mythical hero Superman for, “truth, justice, and the American way.” We must seek truth, speak truth, and be the truth – and not tolerate hate in any form.