It can be tempting to shield students from harsh realities when we see troubling news every time we turn on our screens. But we can't stop young people from being exposed to information about current events, so it's important to guide them through it. One psychological study from the American University points out that politics generated widespread worry among American students with issues such as gun violence, racism, economy, foreign policy, and terrorism. These are daunting topics to broach, but how we involve the youth in these discussions can influence how they see themselves with the rest of the world. But if you’re still contemplating whether it’s worth teaching students about current events, here are some compelling reasons why you should.
Giving context to what they’re learning in the classroom
It’s difficult to convince unengaged students that what they learn in school is relevant. But none of the lessons taught in the classroom exist in a bubble — there is always a broader social context involved. The National Education Association notes how incorporating COVID-19 into the curriculum, for instance, is the perfect way to illustrate its real-life applications and repercussions. Health statistics and the importance of fact-checking due to the proliferation of fake news are good examples. Providing students with current events related to the subject highlights the significance of what they’re learning and allows them to find relevance and excitement in their education.
Fostering honest discussions
When we teach students about current events, we express trust in their capacity to handle heavy realities. This report from Today talks about successfully fostering awareness in the classroom by allowing students to talk through their perceptions of issues like racism. Facilitating complex discussions with them, such as anti-Asian hate, gives them a platform to express their thoughts, questions, and anxieties in a safe space. Moreover, it allows them to process these topics with their peers and understand how they relate to these issues.
Empowering students to engage in youth activism
Students are commonly dismissed when the subject of current events comes up. But the youth can be ingenious when thinking up fresh ways to garner attention towards certain causes. Maryville University’s article on activism in the digital age highlights the ALS ice bucket challenge to demonstrate how widespread access to information sharing has been effective in drawing attention to social issues. Students shared stories, videos, artwork work, and other media content online. Due to the internet's accessibility and reach, these voices were able to reach millions, mobilizing adults who are in places that can make systemic differences.
Helping Students find hope
Young people may feel small when faced with big matters, but discussing current events gives us the chance to help them find hope. For instance, UNICEF informs us about how young people across the world successfully made their voices heard and mobilized their advocacies to demand action on COVID-19 and the climate crisis. Current news doesn’t always have to be bad, and when we expose students to progress, it not only makes them feel more optimistic but also lets them explore how they can help. Rather than running on fear, our conversations can encourage them to contribute to change by acting on hope.
Discussing heavy subjects with students will always be rife with difficulties. But when their futures are directly affected by current events, it’s important to equip the youth with the knowledge and drive to empower their involvement in the future.
If you’re worried about how to open current events discussions with students, our post on ‘SEL Lessons to Help Teens Process Emotions About War’ outlines tips that can help you.
Social Emotional Learning for Every Age
We now offer SEL for High School. Learn more!