5 Tips to Discuss Presidential Debates in Your Course

Author: Dr. Emily Stacey of Rose State College

Amazingly, this election year has been more volatile than the 2016 race. Many of my younger students are confused about how to engage in civil civic discourse that is healthy.
Political emotions are high amid a crisis, an unstable economy, and the amplification fringe voices in our media (Antifa or the Proud Boy, etc.). In the field of Political Science, it is crucial to foster and facilitate productive conversation with students, especially in the freshman Government course.
Here are some tips and tricks that I have accumulated over almost a decade of teaching Political Science.
Preface the conversation.
As the professor, you should briefly summarise and “unpack” the debate. While doing so, you can steer the conversation by selecting moments or policies that are of interest from the debate that will be the focus of the conversation.
Ask students about their debate-watching experience.
Ask the class about their overall experience with the debate. Ask them to think about tone, timbre, and other things that they found interesting or not.
It will take some time. Participants will initially be limited to those who are highly tuned in. As the conversation progresses and becomes more relevant, more students will be involved.
Link related topics to course content.
Ask questions that are related to the course material/contents to continue the discussion. This makes it more accessible for everyone in the class.
Facilitate open discussion in a safe environment
Provide an open forum with clearly stated rules (e.g. no racism, prejudice, etc.) for all sides of any political spectrum. This is done on the first day of class as part of my syllabus discussion.
Do not be afraid to have these discussions!
Although the environment in which we teach tells us that we are indoctrinating students to do so, it is vital to have these conversations in order for democracy to thrive. Some people will disagree with you.
These discussions can be encouraged about presidential and political debates without revealing our political views. It is up to the Political Science professors in the country to expose the truth about politics. This allows us to become informed and active citizens.
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Author: Victoria