As many count down the days to the end of a grueling presidential election, local instructors are using the campaign as a teaching opportunity.
Brian Brewer, a social studies teacher at Brunswick High School, localizes national topics like the 2016 presidential campaign in his 9th grade American Government class using the Newspapers in Education program, which offers free editions of The News to local teachers to be used in the classroom.
“The topic of government always comes up in class, and the students are interested in the election and what’s going on in the news, both nationally and locally,” Brewer said. “The newspaper is great for really learning about how government works locally but also what’s going on nationally.”
Brewer has his students choose an article from The News to read, and he then asks them to identify how the government played a role in the events of the article.
“We’ll talk about a certain topic in government, and then I’ll ask them to look for a connection in the newspaper of what we’re talking about,” Brewer said. “So it gets them to see how government is working in our local community and also in the country.”
The students also learn about the day-to-day operations of government on a local level.
“We learn a lot of things about the county, like what’s going on and how they make decisions here,” said Kashmere Horne, a 9th grade student in Brewer’s class.
Brewer said The News is one of the few ways his students are able to receive local news.
“They see the connections and the importance of what goes on in their local community, and The News really gives them information that they don’t get maybe on CNN.com,” he said.
Ernest Hammond, a political science professor at College of Coastal Georgia, also uses The News to stimulate conversations in class about the national election.
He said few of his students would otherwise read a print newspaper regularly.
“It’s amazing, when I use the newspaper, how much it enhances the textbook,” Hammond said.
Hammond frequently has his students write letters to the editor. He said this provides them with a life-long ability to analyze information provided by news media.
“We try to distinguish the differences — you can believe anything you want, and the news media has various points of reliability in terms of being factual,” he said.
In Brewer’s class, he asked his students to watch one of the recent presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He then used the newspaper to supplement a class discussion.
“We went home and listened to the debate, and he gave us certain questions, like ‘What did the moderator ask?’ and ‘Did we think some of the questions were unfair?’” said Minh Nguyen, a student in Brewer’s class.
Nguyen said this became an opportunity for the students to provide their own perspective of the political process.
“The debate as a whole, it was more of just Trump and Hillary trying to one-up each other, because they discussed some important things, but most of the time was just spent with Trump trying to say Hillary was wrong and Hillary trying to one-up him by talking about things he’s done in the past,” Nguyen said. “It felt more just like a shouting contest than any proper discussion.”
Discussing politics in class comes with challenges, Brewer said, but doing so also allows him to teach his students how to respect others’ opinion.
“We try to have a discussion that is respectful, and I try to encourage that in the classroom — that it’s OK to disagree with each other. But you want to do that in a respectful way,” Brewer said. “The national election tends to bring out lots of strong opinions, so it’s important for me that they are able to discuss without infringing on others’ ability to state their opinions.”
The good news for teachers is that there is always an opportunity to begin using newspapers in the classroom. All it takes is a phone call to The News at 265-8320 ext. 356. Summer Whitten would be happy to sign up teachers to get their newspapers twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.