Thanksgiving for Educators

I hope that you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with family or friends, and that you and your loved ones were blessed with safe travels.

It struck me over Thanksgiving that this uniquely North American holiday has something of importance for us as educators.  It is celebrated in both the United States and in Canada (in October there, since harvest is reaped earlier).  Thanksgiving is rooted in a core cultural story of the birth of a new world on this continent, in which indigenous native Americans and recently arrived European Puritans found a place and time for mutual support.  These peoples’ histories sadly deteriorated over the coming centuries, but the roots are important.  They were diverse peoples, each offering different faiths, customs, languages and organizations.  They found however a shared sense of need and opportunity and a commonality – a community – in which their identity was offered to each so as to support each other.  They most likely literally did beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and as a result they were able to survive those initial years in the new world.  They came together as both the indigenous and the immigrant, and were strengthened and sustained as a result of that coming together. And, remarkably, the teachers of this original Thanksgiving were the indigenous natives and the learners were the immigrant Europeans.

This is probably a naive telling of how it happened, but it does convey something of events that sadly were obscured by subsequent centuries when these values and actions were overshadowed by hubris, greed, distrust, and violence.  What does this have to do with MGA?  Before Thanksgiving we participated in Ethics Awareness week.  I would stress that what we must do every week is equip our students with the same dispositions, attitudes, respect and commitment to communal well-being that the first Thanksgiving manifested and that every November we celebrate.  Our students certainly must leave our University equipped with relevant knowledge and credentials.  More importantly they must be able to embrace competently the diversity that is the human family, bring a sense of trust and beneficence to others, and be players in building a more secure, shared and common foundation in a fast-changing world.

Some education lasts the centuries and never changes.  That is the education that empowers us for life.  We must indeed build student success that is equipped for changing 21st century careers, but Thanksgiving reminded me that we also have a harder task, and that is to build citizens of the future who remember their past and its shared values.  One of our shared values is engagement, and this Friday, November 30, we will engage with our communities as students, faculty, and staff volunteer at more than a dozen organizations across the region in our first MGA Day of Service. As we leave Thanksgiving behind and prepare for the rush of finals and then Christmas, let us not forget that uniquely American story. And let us give thanks that there are educators who have found their vocations in that noble cause throughout history.