Teachers discuss inauguration, recent events with students

NEW CARLISLE, Ind. - A historical moment after a historical month. Americans across the country watched the inauguration and that includes students in history classes.

Some teachers may be nervous about talking to their students considering all the political divisiveness we’ve seen in recent weeks, one educator in New Prairie said that’s exactly why they should talk about it.

It's history in the making, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris sworn into office and a dozen New Prairie High School students watched it all.

"Timing works out for one of the classes that they'll get to see the swearing-in and probably the inaugural speech," Mark Schellinger, the Social Studies Department Head said.

And although millions of Americans were watching, the decision to show it in school was a hard one—considering the politically-fueled violence we’ve seen across the country.

"Our senior us, our senior government corps, our social studies department met as a team, and in reviewed the situation," Paul White Superintendent at New Prairie United Schools said. "And we're in agreement, and we support that.”

School staff ultimately deciding that it’s just too important not to show students.

“With regard to what's happened over the last few months with the election and after the election," White said. "Some of the seniors that are in this government class voted themselves. Just this past November. So we felt it made sense to responsibly engage them in a balanced and neutral way with the inauguration.”

So instead of leaving the students to discuss their views elsewhere, like on the internet, educators thought it was best to tackle the topic head-on in a controlled environment where students could both soak in the history of it all and learn from what they saw today.

"History happens every day. You know, and when there's something within current events that we can really bring history to life. We think it's important to talk about it, we approach it from a very factual way as much as possible. You know, and really just trying to get the students to think, you know, not that there's necessarily a right way or a wrong way to think, but just make sure they are aware of what's going on, and the historical impact of it," Schellinger said.

Teenagers are known for speaking their minds, but Wednesday they were encouraged to do that *respectfully.

Political events can stir up spirited debates, but Schellinger said he encourages the conversation amongst his students.

Students were able to watch the ceremonies unfold with their classmates and afterwards Shellinger opened it all up for discussion.

But what does Mr. Shellinger do when there are differing opinions among his students? How does he deal with those controversial topics?

He said he doesn’t avoid it because we can all learn from these conversations.

"The big thing we talked about is just listening, and if somebody doesn't agree with you that's okay listen to their side, you know, there can be things that you can disagree on and still learn from and just use it as a learning situation," Schellinger said.

"So our teachers, they set up a culture in the room that there has to be some mutual understanding and understanding and respect for both sides of an argument or in a situation. And that's often something that we foster in the classroom," White said.

I asked the White about what if there were riots or other disruptions to the ceremony, would they continue to show it? And he said yes. Because it’s a moment in history and an important lesson for the teens to learn and develop their own thoughts.

Coming tomorrow on The Learning Curve we are diving into this topic further. If you have any questions or concerns regarding school around Michiana, reach out! [email protected] 

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