by Aimee Lee ‘24
Published Apr. 3rd, 2022
January 6th, a day of terror and violence, had not only parted the American people, but also revealed the divide between educators about their role in schooling.
On the days surrounding the Capitol riot, teachers were split on how to approach potential discussions of politics in classrooms.
Justin Voldman, a history teacher from Boston, decided to completely change his lesson plan, assigning journal reflections to his students about the insurrection. Voldman defended his position to an NBC reporter, saying, “I feel really strongly that this needs to be talked about.” Meanwhile, other educators, like social studies teachers at Pennridge School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, followed explicit directions to avoid such teaching.
Though some topics may be delicate, the discussion and education of current events cannot be ignored in schools.
Teachers have the responsibility to create meaningful teaching experiences and are often given instructions on topics they can discuss in classrooms to make sure that sensitive social issues present today, such as race, religion, and politics, are carried with sincerity and empathy.
When students are educated on current events with this learning approach, they have awareness of topics that need to be addressed and can be better prepared to be the future of change in their communities. Both urgent universal issues and smaller-scaled problems will bleed into future generations if not resolved.
Furthermore, as students inform themselves on important issues, they learn to form opinions using credible sources. In recent years, news has transformed from hubs for truth to profit-hungry agencies polluted with bias and misinformation. According to Statistica, 56% of Americans see anywhere from a fair amount to a great deal of bias in news sources. If students are taught how to separate reliable facts from the muddied waters of news-reporting, they can form educated opinions based on truth and sense.
Though highly discouraged in some schools, open discussions about current events can be outlets for students to voice their own opinions. According to Stanford University, “Debaters flex their analytical muscles, learning to find the weak points in opponent’s arguments. They learn to explain their own ideas and assess different viewpoints.” Debates in schools introduce the power of speech and reason at a young age, building thoughtful students who vocalize their opinions with truthful evidence.
Perhaps most importantly, by learning about today’s challenges, students learn to empathize with those who are suffering. In a polarized world where different viewpoints are often threatened and misinterpreted, the education of complex problems can help students recognize how and why certain people feel. Students don’t have to agree with all perspectives, but knowing the situations of the people affected can build a bridge of compassion, kindness, and understanding to issues they might not face directly.
However important current events may be, some schools prioritize their desire to keep education comfortable and neglect the need for discussion, as certain issues may be stressful to talk about, especially when a student’s family or cultural background is involved. With the increasing tension between perspectives surrounding controversial topics, schools don’t want to bring or cultivate the same stress into places of learning.
Nevertheless, in order to build the well-rounded generations of the future, educators must be able to allow the discussion of healthy conversations about current issues with students.