Glass Half Full: How significant news events shape our lives | SierraSun.com

Glass Half Full: How significant news events shape our lives

Ruth Glass
Special to the Bonanza

I remember vividly where I was when President Kennedy was shot and exactly which teachers said what to us.

If you were in school then, you can do the same. If the assassination of JFK wasn't your political awakening, perhaps it was the Challenger explosion, or more recently, 9-11. We all have those defining moments that we will never forget.

Two decades after the fact, I spoke with Mr. Taggart, my English teacher and softball coach at the time, about Kennedy's assassination and how important his message was to me.

His response opened a door I'd never considered up to that point. Mr. Taggart distinctly recalled the tremendous burden that he and his colleagues felt about getting it right, about figuring out how to share news that would change our perception of the world irrevocably.

“While diversity of opinion comes as no surprise, I am saddened by the messages of fear and hate, of blanket assumptions, and of what sometimes seems to be a complete dismissal of the human factor.”

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The faculty respected and acknowledged our need to know; they also recognized that both the feelings they expressed and their unstated reactions to such a horrifying incident were messages that we would carry for a long time. Our attitudes toward the world at large were being formed.

In the aftermath of the recent devastating and aggressive incidents in Beirut, Iraq, Paris and Syria, social media and regular news channels have been flooded by a wide range of reactions.

While diversity of opinion comes as no surprise, I am saddened by the messages of fear and hate, of blanket assumptions, and of what sometimes seems to be a complete dismissal of the human factor.

Yes, these are frightening times in many respects. How frightening must they be for millions whose countries are also under attack, sometimes both internally and externally?

Years ago, when I was teaching middle school, I requested students to quiz their parents on the 10 most memorable news events in their own lives.

At the time, I lived near Washington, D.C., area, and our student body was delightfully international. What took me by surprise, somehow, and what has stuck with me ever since, was how parental perspectives hinged on their own lenses.

The Gulf War, for instance, looked very different through the eyes of an adolescent living in that area versus someone of the same age in living in the States.

The Top Ten US parent responses were fairly similar in content. Depending on the parents' age — or sometimes grandparents' — the top 15 were generally repeats.

Those raised in other countries, however, recalled significant incidents and crises that never made our history books. Class discussions as we posted and explored different lists were both sobering and enlightening. Every child was inspired to gain a new perspective, even if for a short while.

The lessons that teachers provide, sometimes in a crisis, often take our children far beyond the boundaries of science and math and reading.

I remain grateful to Mr. Taggart for his compassionate guidance over 50 years ago. Today, I appreciate the conversations our teachers are having with our students to help them feel safe and develop empathy.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.