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- 10 Lessons About Teaching from My Youngest Son - June 24, 2021
- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
A few weeks back, I examined a hotly contested election for State Senate, and I remarked to a few friends and colleagues that it would be great to host a debate for these candidates seeking the post - and I should be the one to organize it. While all of those folks thought it was a good idea, many thought it couldn't be done. So I gave it a try - and, surprisingly enough, 6 weeks later we had an incredibly successful debate.
In fact, even though the debate was on the night of the Masters' tournament (why I scheduled it then is both idiotic and ironic), there were nearly 500 individuals - students, teachers, voters, fans, and those seeking to learn - almost filling our school's entire auditorium. The moderators asked great questions, the voters had the opportunity to ask as well, and the candidates appreciated having the time to share their message.
In this week's article, I'm going to share reasons why teachers should host political debates; we'll follow it up next week with how to host the debate.
Here are my 20 best reasons why teachers should host political debates:
1 - Model to students - for the first time in American history, there will be more than 50 million students in American public schools. How will they know the importance of their right to vote unless it's something they can exercise in person? Additionally, if a debate is organized at a school - and the students are invited (which they should be) - they'd see that politics, though ugly, is not unfettered childishness like the most recent presidential debates. This is especially important when you think to yourself - one teacher is teaching the next President of the United States right now...
2 - Encourage citizenship - I think it's a proud moment when a child accompanies his/her parent(s) to vote; it is much the same when they are engaged in the citizenry. There are people who fought and died for that same right to vote, and the only way to reinvigorate that is to bring the message back to the people
3 - Schools are a public entity - while schools certainly serve parents and their children to the highest order and extent, they still are well capable of serving those who still pay their school taxes by being used as a public facility. An after-school debate is a perfect way to use a school.
4 - Schools are often underused after-hours - unless there's a musical dress rehearsal scheduled that week (which I also should've done more homework on - more on that next week!)
5 - Schools are almost always the largest state budget item - states spent $621 billion on schools in the 2013-14 school year, or roughly $12,000 per student. In practically every state, schools are the most expensive - but that's because they're an investment in the future.
6 - There is no panacea - that being said, there are problems with schools on both macro- and micro-scales. There are even more people who have a "solution" the plagues of their school, district, or state. Education, at its core, is quite easy - students + learning = success. Education as a policy is much more complex. Bringing a debate of candidates (and all their ideas) to a school can and will highlight that.
7 - Highlight the non-partisan, unbiased nature of teachers - I grow quite weary of the continuous adage that teachers are nothing but liberal, brainwashing thugs. I believe that most teachers follow the adage of A. Bronson Alcott, who says, “The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence.” I know so many teachers who are incredibly opinionated - but they're not as interested in advancing their own bias as they are of encouraging students to unearth their own and compare it to others. Organizing a debate - and being a non-partisan teacher, as we often are - can seriously showcase that to the public.
8 - Engage teachers (who are some of the most active voters) - political candidates want to reach large blocs of voters all at once. One of the most engaged group of voters are teachers.
9 - Stop politicians from treating teachers as punching bags - not much more to say here than that; we are the Everlast bag, and they're going to keep hitting unless we give them reason not to
10 - Public education is the cradle of democracy - Thomas Jefferson is often attributed with the quote, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." We American teachers should take this call seriously.
Again, next week we'll report back on how to run a political debate at your school