Giving Compass’ Take:
• Steven Serling, an educator at a Harlem high school, teaches students to engage with partisan issues and sift through political ideas during this polarizing time.
• Why are the benefits for students in this approach teaching a politics course? What are the potential challenges?
• Read about how student activism is on the rise.
Steven Serling, a government teacher at Park East High School in East Harlem, thought it seemed impossible to ignore the polarized debates that bombard his students on social media and the nightly news. So, along with a fellow teacher, Serling came up with a series of lessons to help students search for nuance in a world of bombastic soundbites and firey tweets.
In class discussions, students explored how they felt about issues such as the death penalty or abortion, and researched the stances of candidates and political parties. When an online quiz revealed many of his students were politically aligned with the presidential candidate Jill Stein, some were surprised to learn there were parties outside of Democrats and Republicans — which led to a lesson on the Green Party and Libertarians.
In an email interview, Sterling explains some of the practices he upholds in the classroom in order to further classroom discussion and participation:
As the political climate has become more polarized, it is easier to take one side or another without actually investigating or understanding the nuance. It is important for me now more than ever to make sure that I check my own political beliefs at my classroom door and engage in discussions and lessons which explore those nuances for my students to grapple with and explore their own political beliefs.
A good academic discussion takes time to build. It starts with building a classroom community in which there is trust and respect from the start of the year.
Read the full article about getting students engaged by Christina Veiga at Chalkbeat.
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