“I just don’t care about politics…”

If we are friends on Facebook, you know what happened in my COM class yesterday.  If you aren’t, here’s a recap.

I start the class with a vocal warm-up – usually a question the students answer to practice sharing pathos and ethos.  The questions have been things like:”Who is your hero?”, “What are you most scared of?”, “What do you regret most?”  Not easy questions per se, but also not questions that really drive the students to think outside their world or past experiences.  That’s fine.  It serves a purpose.

Yesterday, I didn’t have a planned question so I asked one off the top of my head, “What do you think of the political climate in the US?”

The first student articulated his views on the polarity of our country and said that he was scared only a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump could break the business as usual in Washington when it comes to big money lobbyists electing the next president.  He’s hoping if that is true, it is Sanders, not Trump.

The next three students said they don’t follow politics/don’t care about politics/don’t watch the news.

The fourth student said she didn’t understand the question.  Upon further exploration on my part, I realized that my use of the word “climate” threw her – she was thinking temperature, environment etc.  Don’t laugh.  This gal is anything but stupid.  She’s very smart, but if you don’t read a broad range of things, your vocabulary will be limited.

Side note: Damn it, people, read stuff!  All kinds of stuff.  Reading a diversity of books, magazines, and articles increases your vocabulary, exposes you to new ideas, and, hopefully, reduces your prejudice.

A total of two people in my class of 24 could articulate an answer to this question.  20 students said they didn’t care about politics/it doesn’t matter to them, and two said anyone put Trump for President.  And while I almost agree (because, eeew, Cruz!), that’s not really an answer to the question.

I asked by a show of hands who knew who Antonin Scalia was.

Two.

I asked by a show of hands what color Taylor Swift’s red-carpet skirt was at the Grammy’s – magenta/berry or orange.

Twenty.

And I lectured them.  Raised-my-voice-until-their-eyes-bugged-out lectured them about their apathy.  I lectured them about their responsibility to be informed.  And I lectured them about being the problem.  Not being part of the problem, but being the actual problem.

That experience stuck with me the entire day.  I went home and talked to a good friend last night hoping for something that would make the sense of doom and failure in the pit of my stomach go away.  Well, he talked; I blubbered.  The conversation  was via Facebook Messenger so he couldn’t see that I was crying most of the conversation.

I was crying over the sheer wasted talent I saw that day in class.  The waste that was each student who refused to engage outside of their own narrow world.  Or maybe they don’t refuse to engage outside their own world – maybe they’ve never been expected to do so.  Maybe they don’t know how.

I was crying because I felt helpless to fix whatever the problem is.  I felt like I didn’t have enough time, didn’t have enough energy, and sure has hell didn’t have enough talent to reach them.  To inspire them.  To give them the tools to develop their talents so they can change the problems we have oozing across our planet.

He gave me great encouragement and some background he sees in the K-12 system in his role working in schools.  He also reminded me I might not reach them all.  And he reminded me, it isn’t all on me.  They have to want to change, too.   So with that reality check under my belt,  I stayed up brainstorming how I can engage students differently.

I sent this email to my students this morning.

I wish you all could see what I see in you. I see an unlimited set of talents and opportunities. I see phenomenal intelligence and compassion. I see great strength and personal conviction. I see a bright group of people who have limitless possibilities to change the world. But. You can’t change the world without being informed about the world.
 
So, to give you practice engaging with information outside your immediate knowledge-base (and to help prepare you for your persuasive speech), starting Tuesday and for all future classes, our vocal warm-up is going to be you bringing in a news story on a current event happening in our world. Here are the rules:
  • You will find, read, and summarize a news article. You don’t have to formally write out your summary, but you do need to be able to 1) tell us who wrote the article, 2) where it was published, 3) convey the meaning and intent of the article 4) discuss any bias you detected, 5) share your opinion on the piece if appropriate and 6) answer questions from other students. This should all be able to happen in the space of a minute or two – it’s not a huge scary thing, so no one freak out.
  • You may bring the article on an electronic device or print it out if you like.
  • This has to be a current news event. For the purpose of this exercise, sensational/popular news (review your Academic Source Checklist) are excluded. These need to be four or five star sources. In this case, you will likely use more four star sources than five star sources.
I shared with you yesterday my Twitter account is only for news and my 20 minute Twitter morning routine. This is what I found out about our world in 18 minutes on Twitter this morning:
  1. Canadian Broadcast Company: Harper Lee passed away. (If you don’t know who she is, look it up and read about her.)
  2. BBC News (World): The Pope is calling out Donald Trump’s behavior towards Mexico and Mexicans as unChristian.
  3. PEW Research Center: A breakdown of the eligible Hispanic electorate in every state, including data on languages spoken, marital status, and level of education.
  4. Oregonian: The Grant County Sheriff is under investigation by the state licensing board regarding his actions/interactions with the armed occupiers of the Malhuer wildlife refuge.
  5. Al Jazeera English:  China’s economic growth rate
  6. New York Times: Pros and Cons of Apple denying the FBI access to the phones of the San Bernadino attackers.
  7. BBC Newsbeat: Discussing the two schools of thought regarding if the UK should stay in the European Union or leave.
  8. The Washington Post: An article about the funeral of Justice Scalia.
 
All of these have significant impact on your lives – know it or not/believe it or not. And all of them have strong potential roots as persuasive speech.
 
I’m excited to see what you all bring in – text me any questions you have. I’m in town this weekend.
Miss J
If you are a prayer, pray; if you are a good thought sender, send good thoughts.  I hope to give them the tools to be engaged.  I hope to inspire them to be engaged.  I hope to show them all they need to know to be an engaged citizen will not be taught in their collegiate courses.  I hope I give them the tools to think.  I hope I inspire them to think, and disagree, and change their minds.  I hope I give them permission to fail, but encourage them to keep trying.  
I have a lot of hopes.
But this is the next generation – shouldn’t we all?
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