September 16 2015
As an unusual election season creates unique challenges for civic education, our partner The New York Times Learning Network wants to know, how do you plan to teach the 2016 presidential election?
As we get ready to bring you new lesson plans for a new school year, including many more resources for Election 2016, we’re curious: How will you be teaching about the candidates, issues and controversies in a contest that has been anything but business as usual?
How will you approach an election in which one of the candidates has been condemned by many senior officials of his own party because he “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being”?
How will you teach about a contest in which the candidates are more unpopular than those in any of the past 10 White House matchups, and were chosen as nominees by only 9 percent of the nation?
For all of Hillary Clinton’s issues as a candidate, Donald J. Trump offers a classroom challenge most have never before encountered.
This spring, a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center found that the Trump campaign “is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom.”
In a post for WBUR’s Cognoscenti site, “Teaching Trump: Rethinking Civic Education In Turbulent Times,” Mike Kalin argues that “Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric, and his history of demonizing marginalized groups, obligates teachers to reconsider their beliefs about how to approach civic education.”
As he puts it:
Let’s be honest: A student who frequently made racist and sexist remarks about classmates would end up in the principal’s office, maybe even find himself suspended. We can’t assign Trump a detention, but at the very least, teachers can explain to students that he’s broken the class rules.
On the Huffington Post, Alan Singer has additional suggestions for teachers, and frames them with this:
Our obligation is not to maintain some abstract form of “balance” in the classroom, but to to help students become critical thinkers who learn to listen to others, evaluate their statements carefully and respectfully, and support conclusions with evidence. If one of the candidates and his or her supporters are shown to be lacking by this standard, that is the fault of the candidate, not of the teacher.
As we prepare to publish our Election 2016 unit later this month, we’re wrestling with these questions ourselves, but we believe that, though it offers unique problems for teachers, this year’s election also offers unique opportunities to bring real and urgent questions about democracy into the classroom. We have some ideas about how to do that, but we would love to hear from you, too.
Please contribute your thoughts and ideas, either by commenting at The New York Times Learning Network blog, or by writing directly at LNFeedback@nytimes.com.
By Katherine Schulten
Originally Published at The New York Times Learning Network
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