In Education Week’s recent “Is the Election Still a Teachable Moment?” author Sarah Schwartz quotes Daniel Bachman, a teacher at New York’s Massapequa High School: “Teaching the election in the past has always been a joyful thing. I always looked forward to it. I just find in a more hyper-partisan world that now it’s become something where I’m more worried about hurt feelings, or somebody getting the wrong takeaway.”

Indeed…

  • David B. Cohen, national-board-certified teacher and writer: “When people claim we should keep ‘politics’ our of the classroom, I think they often mean “partisanship.’ Failure to teach about politics reinforces dynamics that produced the status quo: We have an electorate with too many people disengaged or underinformed, easily manipulated, disinclined to engage with anyone whose views differ. We absolutely need the substance of politics in secondary-level classrooms, without the partisanship and crass insults that saturate out media….

    Educators should not promote parties or candidates or lead students to a favored conclusion as they study issues. However, teaching about complex issues also can’t lead to equivocation about basic truths or human rights…”

  • Mary Stokke Vides, teacher at Encina Preparatory High School, Sacramento, CA: “… I find that discussing current events that may be seen as ‘political’ in nature serve multiple purposes. They spark student interest, they spur critical thinking, and this results in richer academic conversation from multiple viewpoints…”
  • Jason Flom, director of Cornerstone Learning Community, Tallahassee, FL, 2010 ASCD Emerging Leader, and ASCD faculty member: “I think it is important for teachers to create and sustain a brave space for discourse and dialogue. Part of doing so is ensuring each voice has room to be heard. Because the teacher’s voice is (at least theoretically) the most powerful one in the classroom, it risks being too influential and shutting down others when the teacher uses their pulpit for soap boxing.

    So, it is my opinion that the educator’s job in regard to politics is to facilitate dialogue, provide facts, and to elevate the voice of those whose identities and intersectionalities are a part of an oppressed group. The challenge is that defining something as ‘political’ is somewhat subjective. For me, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and mandatory mask wearing are not political. But for some, they are highly political. Who determines what qualifies as political?”

  • Melanie Link Taylor, blogger and teacher, Silverado High School, Victorville, CA: “Your students and their families represent all variations of ethnicities, religions, and politics. Is it right to wound the quiet student in the corner with your opinion just because, for example, you don’t care for a certain religious group? Maybe their grandma who is raising them is in that group. Do you need to feel so righteous that you insult the candidate that student’s family favors? You know, the student who you try so hard to get to speak and participate in discussions?

    So, you just MUST be like a rude news anchor on any news source and crush that kid who will never speak in class for fear of your ferocious opinion? Is that professional? Is that kind? I try to explain with—some people believe this… Some people believe that… When students get emotional or use belligerent or insulting language (which they hear on the news ALL the time—shame on these ‘journalists’), I remind them we are analyzing, thinking and respectful participants in democracy. We listen to both sides of every discussion. I tell my students the American people have rights—and we have the responsibility to be civil and listen…”

With my thanks and happy Halloween wishes, now it’s your turn… ~ Carol