This is the second installment of a series exploring how schools are responding to the election of Donald Trump.
In classrooms around the country, the surprising, unprecedented, and deeply polarizing twists and turns of the 2016 election have become a foundation for lessons on how America works. We interviewed more than 40 teachers about the ways they incorporated the presidential race into their instruction.
For years, civics lessons were a mainstay of public education. But that seems to have eroded in recent years. As Jonathan Cole noted recently, more than 80 percent of college seniors at top-ranked universities would have failed or received a D grade on a basic civics test. That, Cole argued, is a bad thing for democracy, which is healthiest when citizens are knowledgeable about politics and history. So some teachers see the election as a chance to renew civics education.
Jamie Torrano—Sunnyvale, California: Torrano’s third-grade class had just finished studying the idea of checks and balances in government, so she used the election as an opportunity to reinforce what President-elect Donald Trump will and won’t be able to do in office—no immediate mass deportation, for instance.
Tina Beck—Goshen, Kentucky: Beck teaches U.S. government, advanced-placement comparative government, and psychology at North Oldham High School. She had her students analyze what had happened and how by asking a series of pointed questions about how politics works. It also helped that she’d spent the months leading up to the election discussing political parties and the electoral process—laying a foundation. “I want kids to kind of come to their own conclusion by their own research,” she said.