As the people of Texas suffer the economic devastation of the COVID-19 epidemic and shelter in place to avoid the ravages of the disease itself, few heroes are to be found. But one man (pronouns he/his) has shown himself as a brave hero in a way that should encourage us all.
That man is Daniel Dawer, a former employee of Pflugerville High School. Although Dawer is currently of the Austin area, he has roots here in Dallas, where he had his bar mitzvah and was involved with civil rights groups like B’nai B’rith. Dawer, who describes himself as an “Abolitionist educator striving to be a co-conspirator in the struggle for social justice,” is as committed to his students as he is to social justice. These are the commitments he gave them:
As an educator, I make these promises to my students:
I will honor your identities and experiences.
I will forgive your mistakes and focus on your potential.
I will push you to be your best self.
I will not give up on you.
Dawer, who appears to be young, in good health, and at low risk for serious complications, kept his promise to his students last year when, despite COVID, he continued honoring, forgiving, focusing, and pushing them remotely.
But this hero truly demonstrated his commitment to them when his school called upon him to return to campus. Dawer demonstrated that he would not give up on his students, by quitting.
As Dawer explained to the Texas Tribune, “he would have gladly continued teaching remotely from his home but did not feel safe returning to the classroom as he had been ordered.” After all, this is not just about Dawer, it’s also about his partner, Rachel, and his cat/teaching assistant, Oliver.
Although Dawer quit after signing his contract, he did not give up on his students, especially his students of color, gender and identity. He is, afterall, basically on a mission to fight White privilege, if nothing else. Dawer explained as much when introducing himself to fellow educators:
To me, privilege means freedom from the oppressive systems that can make life more difficult for others. I am a White, cis, male with a college degree, and as a result, I am not targeted by oppressive systems due to my race, gender, class status, etc. #EduColor
Dawer, who holds a Masters in Education from Harvard University and who is the son of a prominent area doctor, likely faces the severest of poverty,up-to-and-including homelessness for his brave act of breaking his contract. But by exposing himself, his partner, and his cat/teaching assistant to life on the breadlines rather than exposing them to COVID, Daniel Dawer not only showed that privilege means being able to quit your job, he also showed them that not giving up is different than not quitting.