“The kids nowadays are so desensitized. All their lives, they’ve been inundated with imagery, and I don’t think it resonated with her as intensely as it did with me,” Worley said. “I had to remind her how government is supposed to work and that our words matter. … that freedom of speech and freedom to assemble doesn’t exonerate you from responsibility or consequences of your actions.”
Scott Byer teaches American Government classes at Kettering Fairmont High School, so discussions of political tensions in class are not new.
He said he and his students covered a lot of ground Thursday — that free, fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the pillars of American democracy, how Wednesday’s uprising affects other nations’ perspective on America, and where our country will go from here.
“Students’ emotions ranged from confusion to anger, to sadness,” Byer said. “Several students were saying, ‘We are better than this.’ … and some asked, are we at a crossroads moving forward (as a nation)?
Byer said the teens had debate about how two core values of the nation (diversity and unity) work together, and whether Americans can peacefully agree to disagree on some things.
To that end, Byer said he would continue to work on a classroom culture where students feel respected, to create a platform for good debate, while also teaching students to find and rely on credible sources of information.
Merkle said parents can help their kids understand the world by teaching them to be good citizens — to be broadly informed about the issues, to vote in elections and be involved in their communities.
For younger kids, Merkle said parents can compare America to their families. Both have leaders who set the rules (what the kids eat for dinner, or when they can play video games), and there’s a right to debate, but there can be consequences too.
Merkle said children were already going through a tough time. COVID-19 meant some kids lost family members and others lost jobs. Some children felt the violence and tension tied to last year’s social justice protests, and many children have been more isolated than usual as many schools have been closed.
“Find a quiet moment so the kids can be the center of your attention,” Merkle said. “Ask what they really want to know, and then listen, listen and listen. Share your own feelings. You’re human. Show that even though you’re upset, you can pull yourself together. This is where you want to be a role model. … Tell the truth at a developmental level they can understand. And it’s OK to say, “I don’t know.’ "