2020 has been tumultuous, to say the least. With a barrage of newsworthy events, the ever-changing social and political landscape as well as the presidential election, it’s entirely understandable that students feel overwhelmed by the immense amount of information. At times such as these, the Eagle Edition believes it is critical for classes to address, explain and discuss current events.
Talking about current events in the classroom setting is often considered a controversial action due to the polarizing nature of politics. However, it is entirely possible to present current events in a neutral manner and allow students to construct their own opinions based on simply the facts presented. Additionally, students can discuss current events and argue their stance in a productive and civil manner.
There is a value to bringing up current affairs in the academic environment. Paula McAvoy, author of “The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education,” states that: “The ‘political classroom’ is a classroom in which young people are learning to deliberate about political questions…the process of deliberation is the major skill being taught…there’s social studies content that is being learned in a process that is, at its heart, democratic.” Benefits include learning how to have a civil discussion, form one’s own beliefs, share one’s beliefs constructively and allow students to engage with societal issues.
Additionally, the Eagle Edition believes that teachers should not be afraid to share their political views with students as long as they are not pushing their views and beliefs onto the students. Sharing perspectives and information can result in discourse that helps broaden mindsets, but civility is key to these discussions, otherwise, discussions can become heated, partisan and divisive. This is especially important this year with the presidential election occurring. Students may be confused about election processes and what exactly is going on in the election and teachers can play a critical role in clearing up those confusions. Knowledge is crucial to making informed decisions, and knowledge is exactly what a classroom environment provides. Teachers have a right to share their beliefs, and by sharing their beliefs, students learn firsthand what different opinions on an issue they might not be familiar with look like.
Bringing up politics in the classroom allows students to discuss global, national and local issues with their peers. These discussions are greatly beneficial, increasing information flow and perhaps sparking new insights. Especially in a classroom environment, it is necessary to facilitate these discussions in a productive manner. Issues deemed “controversial” should not necessarily be avoided; in fact, it is often very helpful to bring those issues to light and allow civil peer discussion. It’s better for classrooms to first address these issues rather than leaving students to their own devices and giving way to conversations over social media. Unfacilitated discussions online can often get very heated, which is unproductive and creates more division. This also prevents people from wanting to talk to each other in person because they think they know someone’s beliefs from online posts and don’t want to associate with them.
Students and teachers should strive to remain open-minded and empathetic in these discussions of a political and global nature and have civil discussions. Today’s political landscape is often fraught with tension, polarization and division. However, those negative aspects do not take away from the importance of discussing issues such as human rights, climate change and other important current events. For students to become worldly scholars, participating in civil discourse about global issues is a must.