Politics in the Classroom Build Involved Citizens
With the exception of government classes, politics are almost never addressed in the school environment, although discussing these topics can help advance students’ experiences as active U.S. citizens.
Discussing politics in the classroom is often frowned upon because of the supposed bias teachers present to their students. Depending on where you live, you can be crammed with one-sided and often inaccurate political information. Schools in Maryland, a primarily liberal state, for example, will present different ideas than those in Texas, a primarily conservative state.
Recent controversy over the newly instated Common Core state standards include a case where incorrect statements appeared on elementary school grammar practice sheets, approved by the Common Core curriculum. The sheets read, “The president makes sure the laws of the country are fair” and “The wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation.”
In fact, these statements contradict the U.S. Constitution. The president does not make sure the country’s laws are fair, rather the judicial branch does. In addition, the second sentence on the worksheet challenges individuals’ rights, which are specifically outlined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Although it contained inaccuracies, the information on the worksheets was meant to educate students not only on grammar, but basic government principles.
Contrary to popular belief, this exposure to political ideas and ideologies is not negative. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), only 45 percent of young people aged 18-29 voted in the 2012 election, which is down from 51 percent in 2008. Without influence from adult figures, such as teachers, we as the younger generation are not educated and not interested in the roles of the government.
Education is only beneficial when everyday lessons help us progress not only in a mandatory curriculum, but further in life. Educators talk about the importance of real-world applications. However, the applications seem to come second to curriculum corresponding with standardized tests.
Engaging students in discussions about current issues can spark their interest and give them the opportunity to form their own opinions.Students, as well as working adults, are affected by the actions of the government on a daily basis and therefore should be active participants in political decisions. For example, decisions about health care and affirmative action directly make their way into our lives. Shouldn’t we know what decisions our fellow Americans are making every Election Day?
Instead of shutting down politics in the classroom altogether, educators’ focus needs to be on how they bring them into the classroom. The incorporation of government in our lives is inevitable. Like all Americans, students are bound to disagree with their peers’ and their teachers’ opinions, but helping them make a healthy transition into politics will benefit them and the rest of our country.