Saturday, December 03, 2022

How the Constitution teaches students to disagree in a civilized manner

The motto for Grand Valley High School and its 1,400 students is “Creating a New Era of Learning” in the Pennsylvania borough of Malvern, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia.

It can also help create a new era of conversation.

By all accounts, growing political polarization in the United States has seeped into schools during the pandemic about what steps need to be taken to protect children from COVID-19 – or not – and now critical race theory and gender identity. including spreading issues. A survey by the RAND Corporation found that nearly 75% of school leaders across the country worry that political polarization hinders their ability to teach.

That’s not usually the case at Grand Valley High School—especially not in Kim Barben’s Advanced Placement United States Government class.

“We as a society have become so polarized by partisan politics that it really hinders what we can do as a nation,” said Barbane, who celebrates her 20th year as a teacher. Out of which in the last two years he has taught Associated Press Govt. In Grand Valley. “It’s important for kids to understand that once you take away politics, you go into the Constitution. That’s really the basis of our government.”

With the support of the National Constitution Center and its Interactive Constitution Initiative, Barben and hundreds of other teachers across the country have the opportunity to demonstrate to students that not everything needs to be political. They learn to disagree without disagreeing.

It is a process that Barben’s students have found fascinating and useful. Dami Bablola says the class shows how the Constitution still shapes government policy. Safwan Ahmer says that class is attracted to specific parts of the constitution, which focus on debate and not dissent. And Emilie de Rezende says she calms the class as she seeks answers collaboratively.

“There’s a lot of news like you’re on one side or the other,” de Regende said. “Then you get into this category, where it’s not really about the politics of today. It’s more about looking at the ideals of our founding documents and trying to apply the best ethical standard to those words.”

“Everyone is really trying their best to interpret the Constitution in their own way,” she adds.

This response is exactly what the National Constitution Center was hoping for when the Interactive Constitution launched in 2015. Yet its expansion, like so many things during the COVID-19 pandemic, was anything but planned.

“It is based on the idea of ​​common ground, and is designed to be America’s leading nonpartisan forum for constitutional education and debate,” said Jeffrey Rosen, the center’s president and CEO. “It brings together the top liberal and conservative scholars in America, designated by the Conservative Federalist Society and the Progressive American Constitution Society, who write about every section of the Constitution, what they agree about and what they disagree.”

That means you can read what Supreme Court conservative Associate Justice Amy Connie Barrett thinks about the suspension clause and where she disagreed with former Acting Solicitor General of the United States Neil Katyal, who served in the Obama administration and Now an MSNBC contributor. , What might be more shocking in these polarized times is that you can see where Barrett and Katyal really agree.

The National Constitution Center expanded the program to schools in 2019, funded by the Bezos Family Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, and the Laura & Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund. But the program really took off once students turned to virtual learning at the start of the pandemic.

The center’s chief teaching officer, Kerry Sotner, saw it blossom during a virtual discussion about the First Amendment, which involved students from the United States and 20 other countries. Some students from abroad were confused about the concept of freedom of expression, while Americans learned that not every country offers equal freedom.

“They form these norms together — how we talk to each other, how we structure that conversation,” Sautner said. “They can take these skills and apply them for the rest of their lives. And we’re seeing that, which is very exciting.”

Students soon began sharing videos of their lessons and classes featuring constitutional scholars with the adults in their lives, expanding the reach of the program.

Sarah Ruger, vice president of Free Expression at the Charles Koch Institute, along with the Bezos Family Foundation and the Laura & Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, one of the program’s funds, said she hopes to extend the program’s success to more classes. could. Country.

“What really excites me about this program is the format that exposes students to a productive discussion of different ideas,” said Ruger. “In a democracy as diverse as America, we cannot eliminate disagreement – ​​nor would we ever want to. We have a world where we disagree better and have better quality conflicts that innovate rather than toxicly humiliate and polarize us. And lead to progress and change. And to do so is nowhere more critically important than at the K-12 level.”

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