Tuesday morning NPR had a teacher on the phone fro…

Tuesday morning NPR had a teacher on the phone from New Orleans who was staying at home during Katrina. The interviewer wanted to show him as reckless or brave for not leaving, while the teacher tried to explain that there was no way he could leave because he had no means of leaving. For people who didn’t have a car or didn’t have the money to get gas, there was no public transportation provided for the mandatory evacuation. This teacher was explaining that he lent money to his students’ families so they could get the gas they needed to leave.

Another teacher is mentioned in this letter to the editor:

As an educator, she knew that many of the families had no mode of transportation. And she feared the worse today — casualties.

“Mom … many of my students have never ever even been to New Orleans. They walk everywhere. They are poor, so poor,” she sobbed.

I’m thinking hard about what to say to my students. I know they’ll come up with a fundraiser on their own, as they always do. Everyone will fill the boxes that the student council provides. Blood donations and monetary donations are needed, and they should be encouraged. However, tragedies like this one require more than donating towards patchwork relief after the disaster has already happened. How do we get kids to see that it was the poor who were left behind and that living here in a comfortable suburb of Chicago they are still connected to devastations on the Gulf coast, that they have a Islamic and civic responsibility to work to prevent injustice of this sort? I know how that answer starts: If I could only adopt that sort of behavior in my own life, I would be able to show it to the teenagers I work with.

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