I noticed the other day as I conducted my walkthroughs in all of our classrooms throughout our K-8 campus, there was little evidence that we are in the final weeks of an historic Presidential campaign. For that matter, there was little evidence that we were in an economic meltdown or even the baseball play-offs.
I wondered: Why is it that we continue with our text books and lesson plans and curriculum maps regardless of the compelling teachable moments that are occurring outside the classroom walls? The experts can’t explain the collapse of Wall Street so I am not sure our kids would understand it either. But there are math lessons in abundance: liabilities v assets, percentages and interest, how much is a billion (700 billion?).
And like the stock market, baseball is a game of numbers and mathematics, too. As are the polls and surveys and data trends leading up to the election. But it’s not just the math. There are civics lessons, history and social studies lessons and engaging models for teaching science and the strategies of debate. These exciting times ought to translate into exciting classrooms… classrooms that are for many children their one reliable window to the real world.
Then something startling happened later in the week. I was watching CNN and saw the anger and vitriol and racism coming from the McCain and Palin rallies and it was frightening. It called to mind the dangerous events of the 1960’s. And while on the one hand I thought perhaps we should pull the blinds down and shield our children from that particular “window to the world”… I realized that this too is a teachable moment.
Are we teaching children how to debate and disagree with one another in a civil and respectful way? Are we teaching children to listen to alternative viewpoints? Are we teaching children about the fundamental strengths of our democracy– the blessings inherent in living in freedom balanced against the obligations that accompany free speech? Are we teaching them that hate speech and violence (and the threat of violence) have no place in our political discourse?
On CNN, I heard threats aimed at one of our Presidential candidates and I immediately thought of the prophetic speech of Robert F. Kennedy called the Mindless Menace of Violence. Check it out. Share it with your teachers and students. This is, after all, an extraordinary time…a teachable moment.
(Cross-posted at http://www.leadertalk.org/)