Teaching for the Election from a Social Change Perspective
Wow, do I love my "Teacher Summer"! Sometimes I feel like teachers get the summers off to make up for all of those weekend days during the school year that we spend planning and correcting. It has been a great one this time around, but alas, here we are at the second half of the season--which means: it's time to start planning again! Good thing that coming up with cool ideas for trips and classes is one of my favorite things to do.
Each semester, the classes changes according to what's happening in the world and one massive event that is happening this Fall is a national election for president. I have been pondering how I might bring this into my classroom. In deciding what and how to teach in my classes, I often aim to present new angles or issues that would often be skipped in traditional high schools. It excites me to think about how to tie the election into both my Peace Studies and Global Issues classes. I intend to push the kids to think critically on how to connect it with their Environmental Studies course, too. Identifying interconnectedness is one of the ongoing themes of our semester!
In the spirit of sharing, I decided to post this blog entry to offer these ideas to other educators headed to the classroom this fall! Although I am lucky enough to have full curricular control, it would be fairly simple to match these lessons with state standards. Also, with a little tweaking they could be adjusted for different age levels, too!
For my first election lesson, I will direct the students towards iSideWith.com. This website has an online quiz that you can take to state your political views on the various issues and rate them in importance. At the end, they show you which candidate you match up with most and in what areas. I will ask the students to take the quiz and note which issues they feel most strongly about and discuss the results in class. Then, I think that it would be neat to have them create their own candidate, party, and platform. I will ask them use both current issues that are already being discussed, as well as have them add issues that they would like to see in these election discussions.
In the following week, I would like to facilitate some kind of dialogue/debate on the perceived importance (or lack thereof) of voting, too. This fits well with a lesson that I already do in my Global Citizenship unit about what it means to be a citizen at various levels (in your school, community, country, and world). It could potentially be an essay, too. Someone directed me towards a movie that is coming out this fall called, "Electoral Dysfunction". One of my former students (who I still collaborate with on curriculum ideas!) made the point that it is difficult to even understand how it all works--with the electoral college, etc.--- and therefore difficult to know if voting really matters. There are a couple of good YouTube videos out there explaining and then critiquing the electoral college that we could watch and discuss.
I also have a local friend who has come into class to workshop on Transpartisan work in the past and I would like to ask her back. As our country seems to be moving in more radical directions on both ends, learning how to work with each other and move past party lines to get to work on what is important seems like one of the most important skill sets we could gain. Here is an overview of Transpartisan Alliance work, and their website is transpartisan.net. Students could at least read the description of Transpartisan work, but there are also possibilities for activities where we could choose some dividing issue within the group and utilize empathetic listening to find common ground to work towards.
Finally, I will use Newseum.org for facilitating Critical Media Literacy for the election coverage. They post hundreds of front pages from around the world everyday and offer a free lesson plan on how to compare front pages to identify ideological slants. I use that lesson plan every semester and it is always successful! It will be so interesting to compare how headlines, photos, and text are placed to make us feel differently about the candidates based on each paper and where it is from!