This Election’s Teachable Moment


“Nothing you do is anonymous.”

Just moments before, the conversation in my first-year writing classroom had taken a surprising turn: Yik Yak. I felt compelled to offer caution to young adults not yet wise in the ways of a conniving world. Not everyone plays nice…or fair. And nothing “published” is ever truly deleted.

But, if I’m honest, my mind was consumed with a different kind of rhetoric. Like most Americans, I could not cease replaying the painful and awkward exchanges during the final presidential debate.

In my job I am expected to guide young people in their writing, their research, and their communication.

But all I could think of was the wreck borne of honesty derailed.

I read an article recently that described how difficult it is to teach in this volatile election season, and I couldn’t disagree more. I may not be a political science or history scholar, but every campaign-inspired word is an argument.

And, call me crazy, but I see an opportunity.

My students are watching debates.

My students are interested in voting.

My students are open to asking hard questions.

In my witness to such incredible promise, I can’t help but consider how we got here in the first place – how it all became us vs. them. My unpopular position is this: Our “leaders” made significant decisions in their pasts without accountability in mind, and now they are attacking the character of the other candidate to distract the American people.

In short, they didn’t consider the long-term consequences of their actions.

Could there be a more perfect teachable moment for our children?

In a world of bitter politics and ubiquitous denial, I think it is our responsibility to show young people that our actions matter, even when the effects cannot be personally felt. That our words remain, even after our bodies do. That – if we commit ourselves to it – our hearts will be what people remember.

So that one day, when the little ones become leaders, they won’t have to fight so hard to be loved.

One Year Ago: To Love Is to Release

2 thoughts on “This Election’s Teachable Moment

  1. The interest, conversation, and presumed voter participants are definite positives.

    I used to not care. Because of the system of checks and balances, I took a “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss” view, so why even talk about it? That is, until I listened to a recent Freakonomics podcast where a U of Chicago professor makes the case that the presidency is more of a dictatorship than we realize. So now I talk about it.

    Anyway, I hope you’re enabling and guiding robust discussions in your classes. And that viewpoints are given dignity but must withstand the test of thoughtful questioning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you are brave enough to talk about it. Interesting though on dictatorship. In this election season, my students have surprised me with their maturity, but two things present challenges: (1) it’s hard for them to see that their vote matters (I wish they knew the power they held); and (2) they are trying to form their own political identity apart from their parents (no small feat). We have rhetoric-focused discussions, but I am encouraging them to question everything, especially widespread assumptions about candidates. I wish that I had had such encouragement when I was a college voter…


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