I started a blog post yesterday. It was going to be a positive post, titled “Looking Back, Looking Forward,” and I planned to share a couple of beautiful photos of rainbows that I took since the start of the new year. I was filled with hope that 2021 would be a better year despite all the challenges we faced as a nation in the past year.
As my husband and I were taking our daily walk, our son called to ask if we were watching the news. We hurried home and turned on the TV, and for the rest of the day, we watched in horror as protesters stormed the Capitol building as our elected Congressional representatives were meeting to certify the Presidential election.
I reflected back to the summer of 2019 when we took our grandsons who were then 9 and 12 years old, on a Revolutionary-Civil War tour. We visited museums, historical sites and national parks to experience, first-hand, the history of our country. We walked the Freedom Trail, visited museums, took a day trip to Gettysburg, and spent a day at the Capitol where they learned that Congress makes laws that should be good for the people of our country. The highlight was climbing the 300 stairs to the very top where we had a 360 degree view of the city. As we reflected at the end of the day, our discussion focused on why members of the Legislative and Executive branches of government were not working together. We could only hope that things would improve. Yesterday, our grandsons watched in sorrow and disbelief at the events that unfolded at the Capitol.
How do we discuss this with our children? What can we say to them when they see this kind of destruction by adults? Is it okay to fan the flames of anger when we don’t get what we want and thereby, cause more damage? And should teachers be discussing these types of events in their classrooms?
Our students today will be the leaders of tomorrow. They need opportunities to learn about and honestly discuss issues that impact them, not just today, but in their future. Teachers need to do more than assign chapters from textbooks and then test students on their recall in order to assign a grade. Students need to discuss current issues, and teachers need to be prepared to lead those discussions with their students. A concern is that teachers will tell students how to think, but that does not have to be the case. If there is a safe culture in the classroom, students will generate the questions and debate the issue respectfully. They will understand that it’s okay to agree to disagree because everyone’s opinions are influenced by their own personal experiences.
Schools need to provide opportunities to discuss current issues if we want an informed citizenry. When students come to the classroom with questions about an event like what occurred yesterday, we cannot ignore them. This is a perfect opportunity to have respectful discussions, especially if there are differing opinions or if there are misconceptions about events. Teachers guide the discussions; they don’t tell students how or what to think. This blog post provides some great advice for educators: How to talk to school children about the attack on Capitol Hill matters
This event was unprecedented in our history, and we hope it never happens again. This is why it is important for students to have opportunities to discuss and to share their feelings about events like these. School may be the best opportunity for them to do so.