Written by GLENN GAMBOA, AP Business Writer
The motto of Grand Valley High School and its 1,400 students in Malvern County, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia, is “Creating a New Age of Learning”.
It may also help create a new era of conversation.
The political polarization in the United States appears to be growing as the pandemic penetrated schools as to what steps were needed – or not – to protect children from COVID-19, and is now expanding to issues including critical racial theory and gender identity. A RAND Corporation survey found that nearly 75% of school leaders across the country worry that political polarization is hampering their ability to teach.
This is not generally the case at Grand Valley High School – especially not in the United States Government’s Kim Barben Advanced Training Class.
“As a society, we have become so polarized by partisan politics that it really hinders what we can do as a nation,” said Barben, who is celebrating her 20th year as a teacher and has taught the AP government for the past two years. in the Great Valley. “It’s important for children to understand that once you withdraw politics, you go to the constitution. That is really the basis for our government. “
With the support of the National Constitutional Center and its initiative for an interactive constitution, Barben and hundreds of other teachers across the country have the opportunity to show students that not everything is necessarily political. They learn how to disagree without being obscene.
This is a process that Barben’s students found attractive and rewarding. Dami Babalola says the class shows how the constitution still shapes government policy. Safwaan Ahmer says the class relies on specific passages from the constitution that keep the focus of discussions on words rather than disagreements. Emily De Rezende says she finds the class reassuring because she is looking for answers in collaboration.
“A lot of the news is that you’re on one side or the other,” De Rezende said. “Then you come to this class where it’s not really about politics today. It’s more about looking at the ideals of our founding documents and trying to apply the best moral standards to those words. “
“Everyone is really just trying their best to interpret the constitution in their own way,” he adds.
The National Constitutional Law Center hoped for this reaction when it presented the Interactive Constitution in 2015. However, its expansion, like many during the COVID-19 pandemic, was anything but planned.
“It is based on the idea of a common point and is designed as America’s leading non-partisan platform for constitutional education and debate,” said Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the center. “It brings together top liberal and conservative scholars in America, called the Conservative Federalist Society and the Progressive American Constitutional Society, to write about every clause in the constitution that describes what they agree with and disagree with.”
That means you can read what Conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett thinks of the suspension clause and where she disagreed with former Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neil Katyal, who served in the Obama administration and is now an MSNBC associate. . What is perhaps more surprising in these polarized times is that you can see where Barrett and Katyal actually agree.
In 2019, the National Constitutional Center expanded the program to schools funded by the Bezos Family Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute and Laura and the Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund. But the program really succeeded when students switched to virtual learning early in the pandemic.
Kerry Sautner, head of the Center for Education, saw it flourish during a virtual First Amendment debate involving students from the United States and 20 other countries. Some students from abroad were confused about the concept of freedom of speech, while Americans learned that not every country guarantees the same freedoms as theirs.
“Together, they build these norms – how we talk to each other, how we structure this conversation,” Sautner said. “These skills can be taken and used for the rest of your life. And we see that, which is so exciting. “
Students soon began sharing their lessons and videos of lectures with constitutional scholars with adults in their lifetime, further expanding the reach of the program.
Sarah Ruger, vice president of free expression at the Charles Koch Institute, one of the program’s co-sponsors, along with the Bezos Family Foundation and the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, said she hopes the program’s success can be extended to more classrooms all over the country.
“What really excites me about this program is the format that exposes students to a productive discussion of different ideas,” Ruger said. “In a democracy as diverse as America, we cannot – nor would we ever want to – resolve differences. What we need to have is a world in which we disagree better and have better quality conflicts that lead to innovation, progress and change, instead of degrading and polarizing us in a toxic way. And nowhere is it more critical than at the K-12 level. “
Covering Philanthropy and Nonprofits The Associated Press receives support through AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content. For full AP philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.
“Alcohol scholar. Hardcore tv junkie. Wannabe bacon enthusiast. Twitter fanatic. Subtly charming travel guru. Pop culture specialist.”