I must confess to having committed what, in the eyes of some, are two major educational crimes today.
I didn’t stick to my lesson plans. And I discussed politics.
The kids in year 10 and above were absolutely desperate to talk about the American presidential election result. Should I have pressed on with hypothesis testing, with non-linear simultaneous equations, and whatever other treats lined up for today and ignored it? Maybe I should. But I didn’t.
I want young people to care what goes on in the world. And after all, if outrageous policies now impact right down the years (as I fear they will – a climate-change denier in the White House certainly doesn’t bode well) – then they have the longest to live with the consequences. I want them to feel passionately that homophobia, islamophobia, racism and sexism are deeply wrong and a threat to us all. I want them to understand the dangers of political demagoguery.
So, we talked about it. We talked about parallels with other countries, other times. We talked about political systems and the issues of the electoral college and a first past the post system. We talked about media manipulation. We considered whether voting should be compulsory. We debated how far our own political inclinations are rational or just tribal, and how much altruism comes into our decision making.
And yes, I’m sorry, but I gave my own opinions. They asked me, and we were having a discussion – I wasn’t instructing them on what to believe. Being prepared to be honest was a gesture of respect.
I have come away no less depressed about Trump, but feeling very grateful to be working with young people who have tried to inform themselves on the issues, and who care so passionately about justice in the world.