All around us, crisis and disaster run rampant. The months of September and October brought vicious hurricanes, the deadliest mass shooting to date, a twitter beef backed by nuclear weapons, incredibly divisive NFL protests, and devastating fires in Northern California. During this tumultuous time our school has remained strangely, well, normal.
The Tam News staff was shocked at the apparent lack of acknowledgement, conversation, or consideration for tragedies that have plagued the nation recently, especially pertaining to the Las Vegas mass shooting. Three days after the shooting, less than one third of the Tam News staff had participated in a substantive conversation about the shooting. How should these tragedies be discussed, if at all, at school? This sparked conversation: Should we talk about current events in class? Matthew LemMon, a new Government and Psychology teacher, has come up with an answer. “I think that talking [about] current events is super important,” he said. “I talk about [current events] in both my Psychology and Government classes. My students have a very basic worksheet and a short presentation [on current events] to do, and that just starts a conversation in the classroom and I think that’s incredibly important. We can remove some of that confusion about ‘What’s going on, how do we find out?’ kind of thing.”
Admittedly, this approach takes away a large portion of class time that would have been designates to a fixed curriculum, but LemMon describes this as a non-issue. “Sure, it takes 15 minutes out of my class, but that’s 15 minutes where we actually have a positive conversation about everything that’s going on. I feel like that’s more important than ‘Who was the second president?’”
The obvious counterargument to this is that it’s easy for social studies teachers like LemMon to incorporate serious current events like mass shootings into their curriculums, which may not be possible in quanitative classes – at least at first glance.
Aaron Aubrey, an AP Statistics teacher, is making such connections in his class. Aubrey wove pertinent gun statistics into his curriculum in the days following the Las Vegas mass shooting. “You can’t ignore things that happen like that,” he said. “In AP Statistics, there’s so many analyses of data that it was easy to [incorporate into] the subject at hand. For example, there’s all kinds of charts and graphs on gun enforcement… It just lent it to my curriculum so nicely, and in a math class you don’t get to do that too often.” Aubrey stood by his decision to discuss stats pertaining to the Las Vegas shooting, but he’s not aiming to force issues that don’t necessarily fit in his curriculum. “I think you play as you go. Like the hurricanes, I didn’t talk about those at all. There’s ways to do it. There’s also a time and place for it, and I have to keep in mind the curriculum. If I can do both, that’s fine. Sometimes I just need to stop and talk about it, like the wildfires I was affected by, so I just had to pause and just be like, alright, here’s what’s going on in my life. Then you move on, we’ve got into the nuts and bolts of math.”
Teachers walk a fine line in determining the amount of time they can devote in class to current events. In the case of national tragedies on the scale of the Las Vegas shooting, however, not allowing for in-class conversations seems inappropriate. Teachers should provide a platform for student voice in these times of crisis, even if it’s just for a few minutes at the beginning of class. We are grieving, and to ask us go through the school day as if nothing has happened is wrong. In the opinion of the Tam News staff, our school should be both a place for students to have productive and informed conversation about events of this magnitude, and an institution that endeavors to make its curriculum relevant to the whole student.