Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Politicians, Debates, and State Standards

Another guest post from A3 Teacher:

A large part of teaching students how to think, read, and write is getting them to express their opinions through verbal communication.  In class my students debate topics, have whole-class as well as small-group discussions.  They also present (both formally and informally) to an audience of their peers.  Public speaking is a necessary skill, not only for the speaker but also for those listening.  It allows the audience to understand the individual and to engage in a larger dialogue.  Democracy is built on the concept of various voices interacting, listening, debating, disagreeing and agreeing, and ultimately moving forward.

For this reason, I am extremely disturbed by the fact that there might not be any gubernatorial or senate debates before the November election.  Both Republican candidates sidestepped planned debates on September 8th and 10th.  Both Democratic candidates have expressed desire for multiple debates while the Republican candidates seem to be doing everything in their power to avoid these public appearances.  Over the last few days, Terri Lynn Land has hinted at the fact that she may be amenable to at least one debate with Gary Peters.  In a repeat move from the 2010 election, one meeting has been scheduled for the gubernatorial race in a town hall format.  While one town hall meeting is a start, as a Michigan citizen I expect more.  As a teacher, I expect all students to participate and engage in multiple dialogues, debates, and speeches.  In fact, our state has them built into the standards; we expect that our students engage in discussions and debates and we hold school districts accountable for this.  I do not let students opt-out and avoid these assignments (perhaps there are modifications or accommodations).  All students are held to this standard.  
Being an active speaker and listener is part of being an active member of a healthy democracy. We should expect our leaders to engage in debate and discussion instead of avoiding it.  I expect my students to meet this standard, and we should expect our leaders to do the same.

If our candidates have enough time to record videos (Snyder, Schauer for the ALS ice bucket challenge), I give them another challenge: Meet the standards that we set for our own students in the state of Michigan and debate multiple times so that the public can hear your voice.  Since we expect the same from students, surely all of our candidates can meet the same standards as well. 

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