My conspiracy

From my first day I loved Moscow. Now 58 years later, I still do! It was my privilege to work in Moscow High School for four decades. With the privilege also came many challenges. The recent resumption of war between Israel and Hamas reminded me of perhaps my greatest challenge. Early on I was accused of being a conspirator.

Moscow is a small, isolated, rural community with only a brief history (1887) blessed with a great University. Lacking a geographic location or the advantages of libraries and museums of a larger community, I asked myself, “How do I meaningfully connect my students to the past?” Religion provided a vital link.

In my world history class I invited a liberal and fundamentalist Christian, a Roman Catholic, a Latter-Day Saint, a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Baha’i, a Taoist and an atheist. Each guest spoke to three questions: 1. The meaning of life. 2. Where we came from and what is our final destiny. 3. Are humans good or evil? On this account, I was accused of conspiracy. No one at the time asked me about my motives.

My personal motive was to model respect and tolerance for others. To encourage my students to treat each of our guests in a polite manner whether they agreed with them or not. To offer them an opportunity to ask questions of people of other faiths and to reach their own conclusions.

Currently, teachers are wrongfully accused of advocating a liberal, revisionist curriculum. If teaching critical thinking skills is wrong, then what can be right? If advocating justice for all is wrong, what can be right? If telling all of America’s story is wrong, what can be right?

Stan Smith


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