Optimism for the Future

By Honorable Sean Spiller
President, NJEA and Mayor, Montclair, NJ

With the new school year well underway, the enthusiasm expressed by educators, students, and families to be back to the business of learning is palpable. We are especially pleased to be returning to New Jersey Public Schools, ranked #1 in the nation by Education Week three years in a row.

Such an accomplishment is no accident. It’s the result of many years of hard work and investment, with parents and educators working together to make sure our students have the resources and support they need to learn, grow, and thrive.

In New Jersey, we know education goes beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. Fundamental to basic learning, we focus on those subjects every school day. We also know schools have a responsibility to prepare students to be active, engaged members of their communities.

This is why our public school curriculum also includes the Amistad Curriculum, which mandates that every student learn about slavery in America and its impact on our history. We also teach a Holocaust Curriculum, to ensure they understand the horror of the Nazi genocide. Our requirement that students learn about the history and contributions of LGBTQ+ Americans, helps to overcome prejudices and stereotypes that still exist. Our students are required to learn about global climate change, so they understand both the scientific reality of that phenomenon and the imperative to take action to limit its impact.

Our deep, rich, well-rounded curriculum helps New Jersey students learn the truth about the past and the present and provides what they need to help shape their futures in positive ways. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the truth. Some would even stop students from learning challenging but important lessons. Very concerning are the efforts to ban certain books from classrooms and libraries, and prevent educators from teaching parts of certain curricula.

Throughout history, many have attempted to ban books and censor truth. In New Jersey, we believe our students deserve the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And when they learn the truth, they will be smarter, stronger, and well- prepared.

We look forward with optimism, knowing the best is yet to come for our students, among them many who will change the world.

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