Today Paris, France was the site of a heinous attack on the freedom of expression. Armed gunmen, reportedly radical Islamist militants, entered the offices of the French satire publication Charlie Hebdo, known for its political cartoons, opened fire, and left 12 unarmed people dead.
I love Paris.
I lived in Paris during college.
Paris taught me to be more independent, self-sufficient, and adventurous. Paris taught me to fully trust and love myself.
As a teacher of English, I am in the business of free speech. State-specified standards guide my day-to-day lessons where my students share their thoughts, feelings, observations of the world (and of assigned texts), and aspirations in the the most successful form of the written word they can. By the end of each year, the tests/essays/ grades only tell so much of their individual journeys toward communicating their ideas more effectively, but even the most reluctant of students grow.
This is why we communicate. We communicate to understand the world around us. We communicate to explore the world around us. We communicate so that we can see how much more we have in common with our so-called enemies. We communicate in order to grow.
Paris’ sense of freedom has been attacked. The freedom of speech we hold so dear in functional actual-democracies had been challenged by those who fear mere letters and pictures on a page. These types of attacks remind us that letters, pictures, and ideas have power more so than any knife, gun, or bomb.
“I hate writing.”
So many students have entered my middle school classroom over the years not realizing the almost-magical powers they possess within their own hands. They think they hate writing. They think they hate being challenged. They think they hate being required to think, but they are wrong. We tend to forget that many wars were spurred on by written ideas. Countries such as ours were established with the flourish of a well-inked pen. So, I challenge them, as the future, to make their writing count.
Take a look back at the picture before my first words here. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. The London-based illustrator Lucille Clerc sums it up in such a poignant image. The words/images/ideas of yesterday that are feared and assaulted today will only multiply in power and effect tomorrow.
To all those who challenge the freedom of expression, watch out: you may create a larger enemy to fight tomorrow.
With this first post I launch “Ms. Willipedia Writes.”