Civil Discourse in Elections and in Our Classrooms

An article in last month’s NY Times, “Teaching Seventh Graders in a ‘Total Mess’ of an Election Season,” is still relevant even as the election season officially ends today.  In fact, one of the benefits of this challenging election cycle can be the examples it provides about the harmful effect of words and attitudes to our environment.

While the disturbing, even dangerous tenor set by a presidential candidate is beyond the control of the classroom teacher, teaching the importance of dignity and respect in an election and in the classroom is very much a teacher’s responsibility.  The tone maintained in the classroom, strongly influenced by teachers’ respect for students — even for the most difficult students — and the resources s/he chooses, sets a powerful example.  In fact, a setting infused with respect can help to diffuse disruptive attitudes and behaviors.

So, yes, it’s important to teach about this election cycle even as it becomes history, using appropriate examples that encourage thoughtful conversation about what benefits individuals and society and what tears them apart.

In an era when models of civil discourse can be difficult to find, this lesson from POV, After Tiller: Precedent, Privacy, Science and Religion: The Complex Challenges of Making Laws about Abortion, provides an opportunity to practice respectful dialogue.

When searching “political discourse” on PBS LearningMedia, you’ll find thousands of resources that you can filter by grade, content and resource type.  Here’s one:  Does Political Rhetoric Drive Anti-Muslim Fears? | PBS NewsHour.

To read the entire NY Times article, click here.

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