A Call to Educators' Consciences in a Campaign that Challenges Them and Us

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar

When crafting the roll out of the #CivicsIsBack Campaign, we made a conscious decision to pair our course implementation efforts with the teachable moment that is the 2016 Election. There’s nothing like the prominence of and participation in a presidential election, and on this level, the current campaign hasn’t disappointed.

However, the campaign has defied convention at every juncture and tested pedagogical commitments to objectivity and non-closure of teachers’ political views. While we have written previously on these subjects, it would constitute professional malpractice to rest our case in light of recent developments.

At the presidential level, the 2016 campaign has been historic for both parties. A crowded Republican field of 17 contenders, paired with grossly disproportionate media coverage, paved the way for political novice Donald Trump to capture the party’s nomination over fierce establishment opposition. Trump has proceeded to realign the Republican Party with its white, working class base, using nativist and nationalist appeals that resonate deeply with a sizable minority of the electorate.

While the establishment prevailed on the Democratic side, longshot candidate Bernie Sanders had deep appeal among young voters and forced a photo finish. Hillary Clinton made history in her own right in claiming the nomination and is on the cusp of shattering the ultimate glass ceiling.

The two major party nominees are historically unpopular and the general election campaign has been deeply disappointing. Rather than focusing on the daunting challenges facing this country, the campaign has devolved into below-the-belt personal attacks.

From his campaign announcement forward, Trump has proceeded to offend, even threaten, virtually every fabric of the American mosaic. Therefore, instead of exploring competing plans for deficit reduction of entitlement reform, teachers are left to use the campaign, and Trump in particular, as a foil for the society we seek to create with our students.

We don’t abandon our non-partisan credentials when we speak out against bullying, gender, racial, and ethnic discrimination, or demeaning veterans or individuals with disabilities. Trump’s tactics are an existential threat to our national motto, e pluribus unum, much less our historically diverse student body. They must therefore be summarily rejected.

Moreover, empirical facts matter in the political debates that define our democracy. As educators, we must always bring our students back here, as ad hominem attacks are mere distractions.

Come the morning of November 8, we will allow the chips to fall as they may, and voters, eligible students included, should be encouraged to follow their consciences. But we must not forget that helping students shape these consciences is among our most critical responsibilities as educators.

No comments :

Post a Comment