As some students protest the election of Donald Trump and others rejoice, teachers are wrestling with how best to educate them on a significant event that has split the country.
Textbooks have yet to catch up to one of the most contentious presidential elections in modern history. Lesson plans are being created on the fly, from the coal country in West Virginia to the Bay Area of California.
John Quesenberry, who teaches advanced history and government in Beckley, W.Va., has been leading his students in discussions of President Andrew Jackson’s appeal to the common man in seeking to explain the phenomenon that propelled Mr. Trump toward the White House.
He also brings in the history of executive orders and how campaign rhetoric in other countries is sometimes more sharp than actual governing. And in light of recent protests, the class discusses the First Amendment and “freedom of assembly.”
“It’s been real good to work in historical analogies,” Mr. Quesenberry said. “I try not to take a view, but give them the different things and let them draw conclusions.”
Some teachers are taking a more radical approach.
In San Francisco, Mission High School peer resources teacher Fakrah Shah’s lesson calls Mr. Trump “racist and sexist” and urges students to fight oppression. Ms. Shah has used the plan in her class and a copy of it was posted on a union web site for other teachers to draw from.
Howard Epstein, vice chairman of communications for the San Francisco Republican Party, called the lesson plan “ridiculous,” even for a liberal city like San Francisco. He said that teachers who use it “should be fired immediately.”
The San Francisco Unified School District has been neutral on the matter, saying the lesson plan is optional. A spokesman for the 6,200-member union said the lesson plan has been positively received by many teachers and some parents.
Few national organizations have developed lesson plans on the topic.
“It is a tough issue at the moment,” said Lawrence Paska, executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies. “You’re going to see a lot of organizations coming forward with resources.”
That leaves many teachers on their own.
In Arkansas, teacher Chuck West admits to having strong views about the election, but he says he keeps his lessons neutral at Little Rock Central High School.
Students in Mr. West’s advanced American History classes have discussed the “alt-right,” which he defines as people that “are further to the right than your typical Republican.” Discussion in his demographically diverse classes also has focused on a president’s powers and the impeachment process.
“I don’t encourage them to think in terms of impeachment, but they have questions,” Mr. West said. “They might not care about the war of 1812, but they care a lot about the election of 2016.”
SOURCE: Tawnell D. Hobbs
The Wall Street Journal