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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Afraid to teach: 'It's safer to avoid current events'

Polarization is chilling classroom dialogue, according to a series of interviews with teachers by the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI), reports Jake Fay, the group's education director.

Teachers are nervous about leading classroom discussions for fear of criticism from both the right and the left, and name-calling among students, he writes. “It just became safer to just avoid current events altogether, even if it was something major,” one educator reported.

Another teacher said: “I hate to admit this, but I’ve been starting to walk away from discussion in my classroom. I’ve been doing more and more ‘Watch the video, read the book, answer the questions, wait for the bell, leave my classroom.’”

Teachers "can help their students develop the mindsets and skills they need to navigate differences of opinion and belief," writes Fay. He offers suggestions on how to foster constructive conversations.

For example, "ask questions to understand" -- not to judge or trap. "Questions that invite someone to share something meaningful, reflect genuine curiosity, or seek out the nuances of someone else’s perspective can create possibilities to connect and lead to meaningful responses."

I'd add: Listen.

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