Teaching students how to have a civil conversation is a new focus for some teachers, who want students to have in depth classroom discussions and observe ground rules for how to disagree with each other.
At Jefferson High School in Rockford, history teacher Steve Shelton has established ground rules for his students, and now the purpose of discussions is to teach students how to disagree without disrespect.
Guilford High School English teacher Barb Chidley of Rockford approaches controversial topics with students the same way as complex literature. She asks what the writer is trying to say, and where are the messages coming from?
Journalist Summer Moore has partnered with teachers in two northwest Indiana high schools to help young people be able to be educated news consumers, news literate, and civil.
Both Shelton and Chidley find that there is a difference between the level of civility seen in politics and the level among high school students.
“I think in their minds when they’re building whatever construct they have about a political figure or future president or someone who knows what they’re doing, they have concepts in their minds that those types of people follow rules of engagement and are civilized,” Shelton said. “When that doesn’t happen, they’re kind of shocked. They wonder why it happens.”