'You Can’t Be Silent.' Schools Brace for the Presidential Election Aftermath

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tags: teaching history, 2020 Election, civics education

The discussion about the presidential election that Molly Sinnott facilitated among her ninth-grade students on Monday went better than the first debate between the presidential candidates themselves.

“They were patient with one another, they were humble when they didn’t know the answers. They asked if we could try this exercise again, but after they’ve had the opportunity to research in advance,” says Sinnott, an English teacher at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Md. “The kids modeled what we wish many adults would do more effectively.”

The lesson was part of a class that Arundel High Principal Gina Davenport created after the 2016 election, in which Anne Arundel County split almost evenly between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Following the vote, Davenport noticed division and racism among students. Weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, a student circulated a white supremacist petition, referencing the Ku Klux Klan and using racist language.

Davenport made Global Community Citizenship a required course for all ninth graders in 2017, aiming to teach students empathy, inclusion and civil discourse skills. In 2019, the class became mandatory for students throughout the school district.

“It was just so good to hear them be able to have adult conversations better than the adults were having in the public arena,” Davenport says. “They have the skills to be able to have a civil conversation with other people.”

The class is one example of the way schools approached the presidential election this year and, in some cases, tried to learn from 2016, when many schools dealt with racist bullying, vandalism and harassment related to the vote. Across the country, educators this year found themselves bracing for an election that could leave some students concerned about the future and confused about what comes next.

Read entire article at TIME

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