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.