Editors: As an educator in Loudoun County and a representative of the Loudoun Education Association, I wanted to share with your readers the challenging nature of teaching civics during the 2016 election.
I am dedicated to the proposition that students deserve an impartial and unbiased presentation when learning about the democratic process. They should be able to make their own decisions regarding which political party to support and where on the political spectrum they should land. The challenge of teaching during this heightened political cycle is that when a teacher stands up for fighting prejudice, misogyny, and racism, one is easily seen as siding with one candidate over the other. It is all too easy for fair-minded educators to come under criticism for standing up for values we all agree with as Americans.
Across the nation, educators and parents have been asking themselves what type of role model we want our presidential candidates to be. Teachers have had to operate with a heightened awareness of bullying and belittling those belonging to minority groups in respect to race, religion, and national origin. I am proud to say that Loudoun County Public Schools has an active anti-bullying policy and that educators in our system have been proactive in preventing what has been called “The Trump Effect” (out of fairness, there is also a “Clinton Effect,” which we can discuss at another time). Teachers in my area of civics have no interest in pushing a political agenda or trying to persuade students to adopt their positions on the issues. Rather, we hope to instill in our students a sense of mutual respect and acceptance that must become an integral part of our increasingly diverse community.
As we attempt to convey a sense of fairness and justice to our students, we must pose the question, “what type of role model do we want our political candidates to be for young and impressionable minds learning about the democratic system of government during this election cycle?”
We civics teachers must walk a fine line, helping our students to recognize the shortcomings of both candidates, while encouraging students to participate in our democracy through political activism and voting. All we ask is that we be given the freedom to share with students our desire to demonstrate acceptance and positive human relations among all Americans. Maybe our political leaders will do the same.
George Cassutto, Knoxville, MD