Teaching middle school social studies and discussing current events is never an easy job, and this year's unorthodox presidential election is making it more complicated. Blugold alumnus Brent Wathke, a middle school social studies teacher at Eau Claire's Delong Middle School, is featured in the Oct. 18 New York Times article "Teaching Seventh Graders in a ‘Total Mess’ of an Election Season."
Read Wathke and his students' accounts in describing how young people are learning about our democracy through examining politics, despite the many controversies and distractions of the 2016 election season.
Wathke explained how exactly the Times story came about, saying:
"Our school was contacted because they found an article in the Leader-Telegram about a mock election that was done at our school during a different election. The journalist was interested in seeing how teachers are approaching this unusual election cycle and wanted to observe for class for a day. I set up a Socratic circle for the students to discuss issues they felt were important and how the two main candidates viewed the issues."
Soctratic circles are a teaching strategy in which critical thinking and listening skills are used to create dialogue to understand a specific text. This method is not focused on anyone having a right answer, but on the dynamic process of discovery and critically examining an idea.
An expert on national politics and elections, UW-Eau Claire's Dr. Geoffrey Peterson is fielding a lot of tough questions from students this year about the 2016 presidential election. “It’s the strangest election I’ve ever witnessed and I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” says Peterson, a political science professor at UW-Eau Claire. Read about Peterson's approach to teaching during this election season and watch a video that includes his students' takeaways from their class discussions.