Election 2016 challenges civics teachers

 

Essential question

Why is civics education important for a democracy?

 

The 2016 presidential race has made teaching high school civics more difficult, particularly in light of some of the comments students have heard candidates make along the campaign trail.

Bruce Fox, a 12th grade government teacher at North East High School in Maryland, created a unit called ‘Scandals, Lies and Incivility’ to help students analyze the messages and rhetoric.

Fox’s students look at comments on social media and speeches candidates have given in order to analyze whether or not they are accurate. Students then rank the stories based on whether or not that they would reflect negatively on the candidate if he or she were president.

For instance, students examined comments Donald Trump made about women’s physical appearances, including statements about Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife. They also debated whether or not Hillary Clinton should release transcripts of the speeches she made at investment firm Goldman Sachs.

Student Sean Lynch said he thought Clinton should release her transcripts and says he follows the candidates on Twitter.

“I don’t feel like it’s a good source of information, but it is where a lot of candidates can slip up. Like Donald Trump, for instance, he does say a lot of not-so-smart things on Twitter that you wouldn’t think someone running for president would say,” Lynch said.

 Key terms

civics — the study of the rights and duties of citizenship

 

Questions: 
Warm up questions (before watching the video)

1. How have you discussed the 2016 election at school?

2. How have you discussed this election at home?

3. In what ways have those conversations differed?

 

Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)

1.  Do you think American civics and government receive enough focus in school?

2.  What would you change about the way you talk about elections and politics in the classroom?

3.  What has struck you as unique about the candidates running in this election?