In the past, presidential elections have always been incorporated into the curriculum of MHS. Come November of each quadrennial, students can find posters for each political party, and red, white and blue decorations adorning the halls. History and English teachers normally devote some time to educating students, a few of whom are eligible to vote, on the issues being debated. However, it has become increasingly difficult for teachers to appropriately discuss the candidates and major topics of this election cycle.
Unlike previous presidential elections, the 2016 race is more about tabloid smears and insults than politics. Instead of using the debates as platforms to relay their message to the public, the candidates, either in defense or as an attack, target each other with ad hominem arguments. Never before has a woman run for president, and neither has a celebrity/ reality tv-show host/ real estate mogul. This election is certainly unprecedented, which puts teachers in a difficult position. Some find it challenging to avoid teaching with a political bias. Mr. Short, an English teacher, notes that he hasn’t stopped having conversations about current events in his AP Language and college composition classes. However, he has struggled with setting an appropriate tone for classroom discussions; “It’s been a little harder not to sink to some of the depths of what has been happening with the debate and with the election.” Short admits that he has been trying to avoid conversations about the election “that maybe really don’t deserve that much attention.” Ms. Scudder, a history teacher, adds that the lack of issue based discussion in the presidential debates makes it difficult to have substantive discussions in class. One of the largest issues teachers face is censoring their own political opinions. Mr. Short states that he has to make sure that he “doesn’t make it seem as if some people’s beliefs are not okay… that’s something I’ve been trying to balance.”
Although the current national debate is outside the norm, educators are trying to find opportunities to instill and develop their students’ critical thinking skills, media literacy and understanding of the United States political system.
By Emma Kaneti