The power of language and the language of power

I remember how beautifully defiant this young man was.

I can’t tell you how scared I was for this student to enter the world after high school.

And we had a discussion in class one day where we talked about code switching — where we talked about the power of language and the language of power. We talked about how the purpose for communication is to be understood, and if you’re doing that, you’re doing just fine. 

However, there’s a game. You have to play a game to gain access to opportunity and resources. So I was convincing my students to play this game, because I knew the consequences of not playing this game. From loss of job opportunities, possibly prison… possibly worse.

So after this discussion that centered on power, the student looked at me and said that that’s a game he will never play.

And it stopped me in my tracks. It made me think: how do I prepare this student to go through life without having to play a game? A game that tells him he is less than.

I don’t want to prepare my students to play that game. I want to prepare my students to dismantle that game.

They will inherit the Earth. They have boundless potential. They’re brilliant.

I think they need to believe that they can change the world, with each other, for the better.

–Steven Ryan Flores
Special Education Teacher, Thornton Fractional High School
Calumet City, Illinois

This video is one of 20 teacher interviews created to encourage the general public to #passthe🎤 to a teacher. You can view all video interviews here, on YouTube, on Facebook, or on Instagram Reels.