September 7: “Teach Like Democracy Depends on It”

–submitted by Janet Piraino

UW School of Education Dean Diana Hess told Rotarians on September 7th that political education teaches students how to present their arguments and engage with people who have views different from their own.  It helps students assess the difference between propaganda and the truth.  It teaches them how to select strong leaders and develop opinions on issues.  It also builds a healthy democracy and helps create meaningful solutions to today’s issues. 

But because it’s not required, 30% of Wisconsin school districts don’t teach civics.  Instead of engaging their kids in thoughtful analyses of multiple competing views, many parents want the curriculum to mirror their views. And many schools shy away from controversy, which is the lifeblood of democracy. 

Hess believes we should double down on political education rather than quieting down.  At a time when our democracy is at risk, our schools should be a building block of diverse thinking and not a mirror that reflects a community’s dominant political views.

She recommends teachers “Teach like democracy depends on it. Because it does!”

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week. You can watch it here: WisEYE Sept 14

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