"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

You probably recognize, in the post title, a popular paraphrase of the words of Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797):

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”  — Edmund Burke (1770)

He was an Irish statesman and supporter of American independence while a member of the British House of Commons,

The inscription on his statue (Bristol, England) reads: Burke 1774-1780. “I wish to be a member of parliament to have my share of doing good and resisting evil”. Speech at Bristol 1780.

This blog is about education, but we’re at a point where education and political activism may be running down the same track.

I’m not talking about partisan politics, I’m talking about educators taking their proper places in public life as leaders and persons of good example. We are some of those people Burke is talking about.

By now, the story of the Jena Six should be familiar to edubloggers worldwide. I posted about Lessons From Jena just a few days ago, hoping to remind teachers and administrators to bring some enlightenment about racial tolerance to their students (yes, looking to break or weaken the cycles of prejudice that infest entire families). The fallout from the Jena story makes me wonder if we ever entered the twenty-first century.

Today’s New York Times carries a story about the Canarsie High School Principal, Tyona Washington, who received a package yesterday at school with a hate note and a noose. According to the article, “The Canarsie episode was at least the eighth time in the past few weeks that a noose was discovered in the New York area. In one instance, a noose was placed on the doorknob of the office of a black professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College.”

The eighth time!?

And here’s a story dated two days ago from the Times that deals with incidents that are on-going in Nassau County, where I spent most of my elementary and all my secondary school years. I’ll be 63 years old next month, folks, and I assure you that this sort of crap wasn’t going on there even in the pre-civil rights legislation days of the 50s and early 60s.

Looks like we need to do the thinking I was talking about on the move, pick the lesson plans well, and get to work now.

This is not something we can put off until our curriculum guides say it’s time. The fallout is raining down now, and we have to step up to the plate.

Another reminder of our need to act comes from a poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) about the failure of German intellectuals and other public figures to respond to Nazi bullying and terrorizing of the German population. Some of you may have seen a famous filmstrip that dramatized the poem.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Speak out folks, talk about race and racial tolerance. Teach about it.

5 thoughts on “"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

  1. This issue has been on my mind for days now. It is such a big responsibility to teach tolerance to the new generation, but if we don’t do it, then who will? At the same time it is the most beautiful way to contribute to a better world. Your post is very inspiring.

  2. i agree with frumteacher. this post is inspiring. we gotta be agents of change. one student/one classroom/one school/one community at a time…

    the sad part, is that we don’t got time.. but i, myself am working on patience..

  3. Thanks for the forceful reminder, Repairman! Sometimes we need a good kick in the butt to do what we know we need to do.

  4. Both of my own sons were victims of racism this past week, yet, I feel powerless to do anything about it. We are white and my children go to school in which they are the minority.

    I realize in the greater world in which my children live in that they have a privilege due to the color of their skin. It still doesn’t make it any easier when they come home, hurt and confused by comments directed at them because of the color their skin.

  5. Great post. I talk about racial tolerance from an international perspective, since I teach World Language. France suffered horrendous riots because of the way they have treated their African French-speaking immigrants. This issue is not unique to the U.S.

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