Because we’re in the midst of an election season, you’ve probably had some conversations (perhaps even heated discussions) about election-related topics with friends, colleagues or family members. Now imagine that same heated discussion arising in your classroom. How would you handle it?
This election has raised issues such as immigration, climate change, health care, the rights of LGBTQ people, race and the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “war on terror.” These topics are likely to be on your students’ minds, and therefore might crop up in a class discussion whether you have planned for it or not.
How can you as an instructor facilitate class discussions on “hot topics” like these? One point to keep in mind: your role as an instructor is to help your students understand the hot topic in connection with your discipline. A discussion on a hot topic as it relates to your course content might allow you to show how your discipline provides a way of understanding and analyzing the topic. On the other hand, discussion of a hot topic might arise spontaneously if some students feel strongly about it. In this case, your role might be to help them see the issue from a more objective point of view. Either way, a discussion of a hot topic (particularly one related to the election) provides you with an opportunity to help your students develop civic values and become better informed on current issues.
Interested in hearing more about teaching hot topics? CITL will be offering a brown bag workshop to discuss this issue. If you’d like to read more on teaching hot topics, see the CITL resource: Facilitating Discussions of Sensitive Issues.