The Day We Discussed Politics in the Classroom

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The elephant in the room has gotten too real. Yesterday morning I rewrote my ENGL 1101 lesson plans. The last 20-25 minutes in each of my three classes would be left open for discussion – REAL discussion, you know, the kind that involves messy politics and the things that are actually on our minds.

So I sat in front of the class and jumped right in, “What’s going on in our country?”

A few students volunteered to offer context, beginning with Kaepernick. Then, we explored the “physical” rhetoric behind standing vs. kneeling and how no two people will view the same action or symbol in the same way. And, yes, eventually we did discuss Trump tweets.

Overall, the exchange was powerful – to sit and be forced to listen to other perspectives. And, the thing is, they survived…we all did. Rich dialogue, even if only for a few minutes, flourished.

It was this weird, healthy, awkward moment that we all seemed to need.

I’d be lying if I said every student enjoyed it. But isn’t that human?

I believe the listening, the sharing, and the silence make us better. They remind us that we aren’t alone and that we still have room to grow.

And, sometimes, there is simply peace in knowing that none of us has all the answers.

*For more adventures, follow Lauren on Facebook and Twitter.

::today’s daily inspiration::

One Year Ago: Love: Where Fries Overcome Fear

Two Years Ago: Washing Away Stains of Discontent


11 thoughts on “The Day We Discussed Politics in the Classroom

  1. Edwin

    I’m curious .. What grade kids do you teach? Was there a divide in opinions as far as race was concerned? The interesting thing to me is how divided along racial lines this topic has been. Bravo to you for this experiment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I teach first-year college students (typically between 16-20 years of age). What fascinated me was that all sides were represented across races and backgrounds. There was strong representation on all sides of the issues involved. In two of my three classes, college football players shared their insights, and, you know, there were differences even across those perspectives. I will say, however, that the more racially diverse classes held more open, respectful dialogue. And, unfortunately, I don’t know that these kinds of conversations would ever occur outside of my classroom with the young people I teach.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a brave thing to do! And it is so needed. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make such dialogues possible and productive, because as you probably know, often having one’s beliefs challenged leads the person to become even more convinced that they are right in their original belief. Maybe a topic for a future blog post for you or me? (Maybe you, maybe you’ll figure it out. I still don’t know).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I totally hear you! How can we actually promote civil discourse at this point (you know, since trapping students isn’t always an option)? I saw a pie chart meme during the presidential election that suggested something like “Percent of minds you’ll change as a result of your FB status: 0%; Percent of people you’ll piss off with your FB status: 50%”. Such truth! Personally, I have moved away from trying to change anyone’s mind. We’ve all become numb. In the future, my prediction is that it will come down to securing safe places where you can plug in and listen to other voices (without cost, without judgment, anonymously). Who knows? But I still have hope 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My favorite part about this is that the discussion was FACE TO FACE. It seems that people are getting so used to speaking online- a place without non-verbals, and unfortunately a place where people seem to feel free to be downright unreasonable and rude when it comes to matters of opinion. Hooray for a chance to practice civil interpersonal communication! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is surreal to even reflect on – face-to-face civil discourse can still happen in 2017! Without that protective screen to hide behind, we all felt vulnerable. But, you know, by the end of class I think we all came to experience the beauty of unfiltered dialogue in our own way. And, seriously, can’t we all use a safe space to share our voice?! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely! And it’s so good for kids to see that ‘safety’ doesn’t have to mean ‘agreement.’ People CAN disagree respectfully, and each side can even *gasp* have valid points! Respectful discussion is such a wonderful life skill to share with your class 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I feel like it opened the door to this healthy vulnerability we have been able to continue in class meetings since. Students feel like they can ask honest questions. It’s beautiful. Young people need this safe place. As adults, sometimes we have to be brave enough to create it for them.


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