From the Editor: Politics in the Classroom

Spring 2020

By Stan Izen

Have you caught your breath yet? The changes to our education system over the last several weeks have been mind-boggling. Normal class one day, streaming online the next. Teaching from your classroom’s whiteboard today, figuring out how to teach online—quickly!—the next. As if teaching well weren’t hard enough already, educators now face a new reality, probably for the rest of this school year at least; maybe longer. Who knows? And that’s the worst part, the uncertainty. But teachers are resourceful; they can roll with the punches. Online education may now be mostly posting assignments and videos of lectures, but we have the technology for teachers to meet with their classes live and have real discussions. If this current emergency lasts much longer, most teachers will learn how to use Zoom and Skype and other online tools to better replicate normal in-person classes.

The Spring 2020 issue of Independent Teacher presents articles on “Politics in the Classroom.” Our current contentious political climate demands of schools, as never before, that they help their students realize that, even though many of them cannot yet vote, they must see the importance of being meaningfully engaged with the issues our country is grappling with: healthcare, the economy, climate change, economic and social inequality, and more. The articles in this issue address many of the important questions of why it is necessary to discuss politics in the classroom and how best to do it. Here are a few examples:
  • Advising the YRC. One of the difficult questions regarding politics in the classroom is how to give conservative voices equal time. In this essay we read how one teacher answers this question by advising a Young Republicans Club in his school.
  • When Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter Drive Controversial Conversations. This article discusses how students tend to go to social media first to discuss political issues and the importance of moving these discussions to the classroom.
  • A Real Take on Fake News. In our hyper-media age there is a lot of talk about “fake news.” This article details how one school tackles the problem with an interdisciplinary project combining political issues with media literacy.
As you shelter-in-place and cope with the rigors of online learning, we hope you will find time to peruse the more than a dozen articles in this issue. Our hope, as always, is that you find these essays interesting and challenging and that they inspire you to improve your own classroom teaching. We think you will find that many of the ideas expressed in these essays are adaptable to online learning, so, whether schools are open or closed in the near future, you will be able to bring politics to the (virtual) classroom. Don’t hesitate to send any comments or questions to editor@independentteacher.org.

Stay home and stay healthy.
 
Stan Izen

Stan Izen is the editor of Independent Teacher Magazine.