This year’s presidential race has been contentious to say the least. During this blog I will attempt to remain non-partisan and present two opportunities for learning and growth for our children hopefully, in an unbiased manner.
Observing the first presidential debate and listening to the vice-presidential debate, it’s obvious that both sides have clear differing agendas that they want to promote regardless of any agreed upon rules of conduct prior to the debates. This year's quadrennial presidential election is creating more than a democrat-republican divide, it is creating a social and cultural divide as well.
Through history we have seen elections like this that have not only shaped our culture and social fabric, but our Constitution as well. A look at the 1800 presidential election (made famous through the musical Hamilton) of Thomas Jefferson brought about the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. Some of the rhetoric of that campaign (which brought rise to the two party system) mirrors the current divide in philosophies we have today.
Regardless of where you stand on different issues, a clear message can be sent to our children...and that is to listen. Simply listen to each other. Listening can open doors of understanding which then can lead the higher order thinking skill of empathy.
The noun empathy refers to: (1) the ability to comprehend another person’s actions and emotions, (2) the identification of thoughts and emotional states within others, (3) the capacity to understand a person’s emotional reaction, (4) the awareness of another’s problems, without experiencing them. In general, empathy can be understood as “walking a mile in another’s shoes” or to “see where they are coming from.”
Developing active listening skills and empathy can bring us together rather than keep us apart. Whether the larger issue is police violence/racial tensions, foreign trade, or sharing blocks in kindergarten, these skills make us better.
It is my hope by beginning a dialogue about active listening and empathy within the home and our school we will create future leaders who will be able to see issues more clearly.
Sumner Academy will begin the process of our own presidential election after Fall Break. Our eighth graders will conduct voter registration prior to the election and issue voter cards to each student pre-kindergarten through eight. They then will assign electoral votes to each grade based on enrollment. On election day, the eighth graders will open a polling station and be responsible for the collection and tabulation of popular votes as well as electoral votes. Results will be announced after they are verified by the “election commission” (also eighth graders).
The process of working and participating in an election goes to the core of our democratic society and provides wonderful learning opportunities for our school. Hopefully, this process combined with a focus on listening and developing empathy will provide our children with lifelong tools.