Are these the lessons we want our students to learn?

Opinion polling for the United States presiden...

Opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2008, Democratic and Republican Candidates, year to date (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every four years our students have an up-close and personal opportunity to observe the political and electoral processes and learn critical lessons from a Presidential election. Speeches, debates, endless commentary, chances to hear presidential and vice-presidential candidates, U.S. congress women and men, state governors, and other state and local officials running for office are all opportunities to  see how these processes work.

But I wonder about the lessons being learned this year. You may not be hearing these questions out loud, but believe me, your students are thinking about them while taking in the larger issues of politics and elections.

1. Who do I trust? With the avalanche of information from TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, the online world of blogs, websites, and articles, how do I differentiate the important from the fluff? Which media is telling the truth and how can I be sure? What about the candidates themselves. There are so many arguments and counter-arguments, where do I begin figuring out what is accurate and what is not?

2. Do facts count? To make things even more difficult, facts no longer seem to matter. I hear about numerous “fact checking” groups that analyze each candidate’s veracity after each debate and speech. But it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are telling us the truth or not. What really is the truth? What are the facts? See #1…who do I trust?

3. Whatever happened to open and civil discussion, good manners, and proper etiquette? If I said or acted like some of the candidates, I would be thrown out of class. We are taught about civil discourse and considering various sides of an argument, but I don’t see that happening in this election. What about those politicians that have vowed to defeat their candidates  over any issue.

4. Is anyone out there paying attention to all this…noise? The estimate for this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns alone is expected to reach nearly six billion dollars (Center for Responsive Politics). Someone has to ask if that is money well spent. I would ask, does it make any difference?

These are questions are young adolescents are asking as they observe the adults around them in this election season. While I hope that my adult skepticism isn’t intruding here,  I’m not sure how they CAN NOT see and hear what I am seeing and hearing. Excusing what our students are seeing as “just politics” is not a responsive nor sufficient answer.

So, what are you doing to turn these potentially negative lessons into positive ones this election year?

Please take a few minutes to comment.


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3 Responses to “Are these the lessons we want our students to learn?”

  1. Chris Toy Says:

    I tend to agree there is a disregard for both civil discourse and balanced perspectives in the way candidates, their advocates, and voters interact. Adults need to realize that their actions and attitudes send a strong message about how they believe people, communities, states, and nations should interact.

  2. Ed Brazee Says:

    Chris, thanks for your response. In the light of day my previous post may sound harsher than I meant it to be. However, as a teacher who always tried to include discussions about honesty, respect, fairness, compassion, and responsibility (among others) in whatever I was teaching, I am very concerned about the explicit lessons that our students are learning as they observe our current political process…and played out in this election. How can we expect young adolescents to act responsibly, speak from fact-based viewpoints, and be ethical citizens when they see adults at the highest levels do the opposite?

    Fortunately, Jill Spencer’s October 6th post (just prior to mine) gives us the opportunity to participate in a very positive way; it is valuable as an excellent model for our students. Please re-read and get that letter or email out by October 17th.

  3. Mary callan Says:

    I really did connect with your post on a very personal level! I recently posted what I thought was a pretty non-In Your Face political point of view re: healthcare… and a family member slammed me…. Twice! I removed his first very heated comment and thought that would be the end of it… But he returned and posted two more times with very negative comments… “That’s a LIE!” Etc. I decided to leave the comments on my page and asked that he respect my views as I respect his… No more comments appeared…

    Now this was a 20 something nephew, who i would WANT to explore ideas with to better understand his point of view…however, I was seriously considering blocking him from my page because of the very insulting tone….But that approach shuts down the dialogue… I would be interested in alternatives???

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