Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Talking about. . .

My students love CNN Student News.

Some love watching anything for ten minutes instead of reading or writing, some love the puns that the host makes, and some truly enjoy following the news. I like that international stories get lots of coverage and that the newscast can make use of CNN's deep pockets and vast material. I like that it doesn't talk down to students (much), and that it ignores most local/crime stories that local media are obsessed with. I like that it doesn't follow a story about the humanitarian crisis in Syria with a story about Beyonce lip syncing at the Inauguration. (That was the last time I watched local news. At home I watch the Weather Channel.)

Today, as I made my coffee, somewhat bleary-eyed after a four-day weekend (I'm so not on a school sleep schedule yet), I realized that we would need to talk about Syria this week. We will use the newscast as a resource. I will try to find some articles, and maybe a video or audio of the Secretary of States's address last Friday. I will have to think about what I think, and what it's appropriate to share, and when I need to step back and let my students have their own opinions.

It is a challenge. When I taught high school, I primarily taught seniors, so I shared my opinions freely. Many of my students were eighteen, ready for college or career; many were about to join the military. My opinion did not have undue influence.

Teaching middle schoolers, and teaching them social studies, means that I hold back more. I don't tell them who I'm voting for in elections. I share broad values ("everyone deserves equal protection under the law") while avoiding specifics.

When I am more specific, I am sure to emphasize that something is my opinion, and why I think the way I do. Last week one of the arguments submitted by a student to Student News against military strikes was a need to focus on our economy. That particular logic doesn't work for me; a concern for one does not work for or against the other. I shared that with my classes, not as a pro or con for military strikes, but as a way of thinking through my values. I want them to separate unrelated issues, or at least to have an opinion about intervention before deciding if it's the right choice for our country.

So my thinking for today is this: We will catch up on some news coverage, and I will ask my students to think of the reasons to get involved, and the reasons to stay out. I need them to understand the many sides to an issue before they decide how it aligns with their own beliefs.

We'll see how it goes.

This is why we have so many maps in our classroom.


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