Are you prepared to teach about the Presidential Election?

american-flag-1020853_960_720By Nick McDaniels

Because I am not. I split my time recently between participating in the American Federation of Teachers 100th Anniversary Convention and watching the Republican National Convention on television. As you might expect, the differences were striking, though the format was largely the same. But this post is not about my convention. This is about the big party conventions. I spent time watching speech after speech on TV, watching delegations leave the floor, watching convention rules of order crush dissent, and I reflected on what this historically entertaining election means for me as a teacher.

In the past, I have done what many teachers do. I harness the power of presidential elections to discuss the democratic process, the electoral college, the use of rhetoric. But this election, make no mistake, is decidedly different in the opportunity it affords for teachers. It is, of course, a sociologist’s dream, and, as such, creates many new ways to present to students our political process in this country.

But where I struggle, though the difference between this election cycle and any other one in my lifetime is clear, is how to teach this differently. Do I use Trump rhetoric to further my Teaching Tolerance-driven teaching? Or do I seize the historic moment of the strong possibility of Mrs. Clinton becoming the first female to occupy the oval office? I don’t know. I think because I am having so much trouble myself wrapping my head around this election and the media coverage thereof, I am struggling to come up with exciting ways to teach this election differently.

So here I blog, on my knees, pleading for some help! How do we help make sense of this election for our students? How do we teach our students about the ratings-boosting, shoot-from-the-hip style of one candidate and the same-as-it-ever-was cover-up the bad stuff style of another? How do we express to students that there are more than two choices? And more importantly, how do we, with two major candidates that very few people actually support, teach our students that they should still have hope for the democratic future of this country?

If you have an idea, leave a comment. Help me figure out how to teach this.



1 Response to “Are you prepared to teach about the Presidential Election?”

  1. 1 Tim Cigelske August 4, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about, too. I teach a media writing class and in the past I’ve had them cover election night by writing and reflecting about the actual coverage (not the candidates themselves). This year, I’ve been thinking of having them do the same — but for a longer period of time. Because this is such an unusual election I think there’s more material to cover from the many different angles available, including the ones you cited. The hard part is the news cycle has been so unpredictable, it’s almost hard to plan for what’s going to be in the headlines on any certain day. So while I want to plan ahead, I think covering this election might require more flexibility. Good luck!


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