23 December 2007

Learning from this administration

I got an email earlier this week from Thomas J Hanson from Open Education asking me to comment about this post. In it Hanson talks about the numerous ethical lapses of this Bush administration. I am reminded of Keith Olbermann's new segment "Bushed" in which he reminds you of three Bush administration scandals that have been buried by newer scandals. Its tiring, aggravating, disheartening and very important to be reminded.

My first response to Hanson's post was rather knee jerk. I talked about why my 20-something peer's don't vote. I ranted a bit about how the way Clinton was treated, the 2000 election and this administration has tinted (tainted?) how people my age see politics.

But when I went back and read more carefully both the post and Hanson's email to me, I realized I had missed the critical point. Open Education is an education blog, and the post was asking "How do we tell children and teens about these failures in the government without appearing political?"

For teachers, the behavior and decision-making within the current White House makes it very challenging to fairly discuss politics with the next generation of voters. Walking the political line of fairness in a high school social studies class has likely never been more difficult than it is today. That is because the close examination of these ethical transgressions would be seen as nothing more than bashing our president.

However, our democratic process is supposed to lead our great nation in a direction that puts the proper people in the position to further the very ideals our country was founded upon. If we adults are thoroughly confused and shaken by what we are witnessing, imagine how difficult it must be for our children.

I'm not sure you can. Its not possible to say for sure if a Democratic president, under the same external pressures would do the same, but the fact remains that this is a Republican that did these things. You can say that Bush and his administration did these things, and yes they are Republicans, and no not all Republicans agreed or approved of all these bad things. Even some Democrats went along for some, even many, of these things. But you can't ignore the fact that he it is a Republican that did these things.

Its a correlation, not necessarily a causation. Maybe that would work. These bad things did not necessarily flow from the fact that he is a Republican, but how intertwined the two things are is open to interpretation. Leave that for the child to ponder with or without an adult of their choosing.

I'm also going to take this in another direction. High school science teachers have been under intense pressure to not talk about evolution in a way that would offend those who prefer a specific religion's view on how the world came to be. The teachers have been pressured not to talk about the truth that science knows for political reasons.

What then happens to the civics or history teacher who wants to talk about the facts of the Nixon or Reagan administration? What about those who want to talk about Vietnam when there are parents at home who have a different view about that war? What happens when there are people who want to impress upon their children a world view that ignores certain facts? Those are much bigger questions that swirl around what it means to grow up and think independently.

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