With the 24-hour news cycles that exist today, educators are faced with a challenging range of important topics to potentially address in the classroom, but actually teaching current events is easier said than done. From world-changing humanitarian situations to smaller developments unfolding at the level of one’s community, wading into these waters can be complicated, particularly without the support of best practices. How do we cultivate safe and brave spaces for our students and ourselves as we navigate the many issues of the day? And what does it look like to do this skillfully amidst the escalating culture wars that polarize discussion and the challenge of media literacy in a “post-truth” world?
In the week since an extremist mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and staged a chaotic insurrection that shocked the nation, outrage, concern, and confusion have continued to make headlines. But amid the upheaval, students and teachers have continued to come together in classrooms and virtual learning spaces for daily lessons and instruction. Of course, this isn’t the first time in our history when teachers and students have had to grapple with conflict and fear. If anything, we must acknowledge and underscore that education is often a constant. That fact doesn’t make the events of last week any less serious or any easier to comprehend, but it does illustrate just how foundational our schools are to a functioning society. In the face of civil turmoil, it is critical that classrooms provide safe, responsive spaces for their students to explore the events, gain understanding, and ask questions about what happened and what might come next.
Amidst all of the ups and downs of 2020, we at Facing History have been proud to share a wide variety of new curricular resources, webinars, and blog posts with our educators and allies. Check out some of our top pieces of content from 2020 below:
This past September, I had the privilege to speak with Dr. Dena Simmons during a Facing History webinar about how social-emotional learning can help us realize an anti-racist future. It was on the day that the grand jury in Louisville, KY made the decision not to charge anyone for the murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed African-American woman fatally shot in her apartment. Both Dr. Simmons and I felt the heaviness of this verdict, and the need to have an honest conversation about the times we are living in as Black women educators. Dr. Simmons has since written an article for ASCD in which she notes that Black women educators always “show up...because we know our work is critical to Black youth in white-dominated school systems...even if it comes at a cost. But we are exhausted.”
As the George Floyd protests continue in cities around the country, debate continues to mount about the future of policing. A wide network of activist groups have been calling for the nation’s police departments to be defunded, insisting that attempts at incremental reform have failed and alternative approaches to public safety must be implemented. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, a coalition of House Democrats is advocating an alternative approach, asserting that we can reduce wrongful fatalities within existing systems of policing. As debate continues to rage, these efforts are provoking hard questions about the best possible outcomes of police reforms and whether they would be enough to protect black lives, if achieved.
Over the last week, mass shootings across the country—from Gilroy, California; to El Paso, Texas; to Dayton, Ohio—claimed over 30 lives and left 69 injured. These horrific events—one of them, a hate crime—evoke a range of emotions from anger to fear to sorrow as we mourn the loss of the victims, and watch their families and communities grieve the immeasurable losses that have befallen them.
The upcoming midterm elections. The Kavanaugh hearings. Colin Kaepernick and Take A Knee. The Rohingya crisis. It’s a tumultuous time in the world—and that complexity will likely remain for years to come. How do you take on the task of explaining these issues? In what way should you tackle current events in the classroom? How do you convey thorny global concepts while respecting diverse points of view and making students feel inspired?
Topics: current events
On August 1, a Danish law will ban full-face veils such as niqabs and burqas worn by some Muslim women. This restriction raises questions about national identity and the tensions that arise as migration alters demographics and cultural expressions. At the center of this law are assumptions about what it means to be Danish, concerns raised by religious pluralism, and decisions regarding the treatment of minorities.
Topics: current events
Last month, the NFL announced its plan to fine teams if their players kneel in protest during the National Anthem. Sparked by incidents of police violence and brutality towards people of color, mainly black men, this movement started in the fall of 2016 with then San Francisco 49-er Colin Kaepernick. As kneeling has gained momentum in the year and a half since, it has thrust sports and politics into the line of fire, distracting from the protest's original intent: to bring awareness to the everyday racial injustices people of color face in the United States—particularly police brutality.
Topics: current events
Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History is an ongoing series with Listenwise. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. We will take a look at the benefits and challenges of lowering the voting age in the United States.