Going through my teens, and during my first years teaching in the 1960's, my generation witnessed, and many of us, marched and participated in the Civil Rights Movement.
Most of my blogging has reflected back on that time through the lens of my own learning challenges, and early efforts to bring film and television into the classroom. Then, at the very beginning of education's Media Literacy Movement, we found that still and motion pictures could be equally powerful teaching and learning tools, alongside print, for both traditional and visual learners.
With documentaries, news clips, music lyrics and most powerfully with photography, I brought the real-time history of the battle for civil rights into my classes. The black and white photographs from weekly magazines, and newspapers, sit-ins at lunch counters, freedom riders, marchers from Selma to Montgomery and from everywhere to Washington DC., did the story telling, teaching, and showcased the strength and vitality of America's Democracy.
Yes, I was pro-civil rights both as a college student and teacher participating in marches in New York and in Washington DC. It was easy bringing all of it into the classroom as current events with self-evident lessons I wanted to teach about freedom of speech, discrimination, the need for equal opportunity and the core values of our democracy.
There will be no standardized test questions on this years presidential election and that alone may disqualify it from classroom discussion. In fact it may be the easy and obvious out for keeping Donald J. Trump's name and campaign off limits to schools this fall.
Education is democracy's most important tool for maintaining our freedoms. As an unprecedented Washington Post editorial declared "Donald Trump is a unique threat to American Democracy." We are obligated to teach our children about the constitution and the separation of powers, the role that immigration has played in our history, the strength and importance of international alliances that were critical to defeating Hitler in World War II.
They have or will eventually learn about South American dictators like Argentina's Juan Peron and Augusto Pinochet from Chile.
Let your students do the comparisons. Let them listen to Trump's acceptance speech at the conclusion of the Republican Convention and compare that to everything they have learned in their history and social studies classes. Have the courage to let them be the judge.