Friday, August 14, 2020
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S. IL students show no post-election negativity

Reports from across the country show an increase in harassment and bullying among students, but officials in at least one district in southern Illinois say they’ve been happy with the positive and learning-filled response among students, the Southern Illinoisan reports out of Carbondale.

Giant City State Park in Carbondale, Ill.

Students at West Frankfort Central Middle School and Frankfort Community High School since the election of Donald Trump seem to be getting along just fine, according to Mike Karoski, who teaches civics at the high school. This is true in part, he said, because of lessons learned in a highly populated elective at the middle school called “Discovering an Understanding of Self and Others,” or DUSO.

Melanie Swann is a DUSO teacher at the middle school, where more than three-fourths of the seventh and eighth graders decide to enroll in the class. She challenges her students by talking about bullying, suicide, sexual assault, and so on, while asking her students to defend themselves on issues they learn about from the presidential election and campaigns.

The class started happening five years ago, and it has had a big effect on students’ behavior in and out of the classroom, because it gives them confidence to do what is right. Principal Charley Cass said the election has turned into an excellent teaching and learning opportunity for students. “We are teaching soft social skills that typically our parents taught us,” the paper quoted him as saying. “They are seeing what is normal junior high life playing out on television between grown-ups, and it’s not a good example to set.”

In middle school, kids typically develop a strong sense of justice and fairness, he said. And his students have risen to the occasion. “I am hearing some horrible stories around the nation,” he said. “Here, not so much.”

The DUSO program is helping students “open a dialogue … increasing their thinking skills,” the paper quoted Mr Karoski as saying.

Although reports of bullying, name-calling, and other forms of harassment have certainly dominated the headlines since the election, it is likely that schools where no spike has been observed are simply flying below the radar, going about doing what they do normally.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says that among US educators, “90 percent reported that their school’s climate has been negatively affected [by the election], and 80 percent described heightened anxiety and concern among minority students worried about the impact of the election on their families.”

While we can’t minimize the importance of ending the hate and easing the anxiety of students so they can be open to new learning, we also need to report that well-behaved students are certainly present among us.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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