By Andrew Pillow
As a member of the media, I can tell you there has never been a better time to be a journalist or blogger. There are so many issues and stories going on all around the world. Obviously, we live in a volatile time politically, but race relations, international issues, and climate change are making this an extremely interesting time to be alive. Teachers should allow their students to experience this and keep up with current events in class.
The obvious rebuttal to this idea is the fact that news outlets aren’t always high quality. The fear of low quality or misleading news is a well-founded one. But this is actually all the more reason to expose students to it. Teach them how to be skeptical of news outlets. Teach them to recognize political bias in a blog. Teach them how to spot a fake news story. These are all skills that we should be equipping students with anyway, especially in this digital age.
If you don’t think your students are ready to learn about fake news and political bias, then simply select news outlets that specialize in content for students. There are a variety of news sources that create content tailormade for classroom instruction. Newsela and CNN Student news both provide high-quality news and current event coverage daily. Ironically these “student news outlets” tend to be better than their adult counterparts due to the fact that they contain very little opinion or bias.
Pretty much all of the student-centered news sites have extension activities but feel free to come up with your own. Have students reflect on the current events of the day. Have them debate their classmates on key issues. For a higher-level activity, have them create their own newspapers and provide their own coverage of world events.
It is more work to incorporate current events into class. It’s typically not a standard, nor will it help you on those end of the year state exams. However, it will all be worth it when you see your students form real-world connections to content you taught in class. And of course, there is that whole becoming a well-rounded citizen thing too.
The coverage of the anniversary of 9/11 made me realize that these students aren’t just studying history… they are living it. Teachers need to take note and give them at-bats with current events content to capitalize on the opportunities we have during these volatile times.