As I head into planning for the fall, the question that I can’t get out of my head is this: How will I teach about the election this year? And the cascade of questions that follow: How will I prepare my students for being in schools in this election season? How do I give them the confidence to engage with students spouting rhetoric they heard on television? What do I do if a student complains because I bring up the election? What are my protections as a faculty member? Do I have any?
Every other year when I’ve taught during an election, I use the historic moment as a teachable one: comparing education policies, examining rhetoric, critical reading of media coverage. The list of standards I could cover by digging into a political campaign was long. That hasn’t changed, necessarily, but this isn’t a normal election year. Trump is a demagogue. The current president called him unfit for the office. And both previous Republican presidents are remaining silent or offering criticism of the policies that Trump espouses, like isolationism and nativism. His positions and rhetoric are not okay. But can I say that outloud in my classroom?