Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

September 13, 2012

Elections should be a teaching moment

(Continued)

Some Indiana schools often ignore this law completely or comply with it, but only partially. One of the reasons for this may be that the law isn’t specific enough. It calls for “five full recitation periods of class discussion.” How long is a full recitation period? It used to be about 50 minutes. That’s not always true now. We have more types of class schedules and schools now, and the length of a class period may vary. The law does contain an enforcement procedure, but it is vague.

When I wasn’t a teacher, I was a high school principal. I frequently needed to remind history teachers of this law and ask to see their election lesson plans. Some teachers seemed to be completely unaware of the law. Others discussed the election in their classes, but rather haphazardly. Their lessons lacked clear objectives, implementation procedures, or effective evaluation strategies. I must confess that my election lessons weren’t always the best feature of my teaching, either.

I probably wouldn’t be writing this if we were not confronting a very unique election. I’m a senior citizen, and I can’t recall another time when our government has been as paralyzed and ineffective as it has been for the last four years. Democracy can’t succeed without cooperation and compromise.

The uniqueness of this election makes it a teachable moment. All American history teachers should seize the opportunity to help their students understand how our government functions or fails to function in the face such gridlock. Parents can help by discussing their own opinions about the election with their children. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is.

You can use it to create a special learning experience for your child.

We may never encounter another teachable moment like this one again. Considering the painful political battles of the past four years, I sort of hope that we don’t!

• Mark Heinig Jr., of Kokomo, is a retired Indiana principal and teacher. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.

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