As educators, it is our profound responsibility to activate and exercise students’ thinking skills every day. Peer group discussions, based on open-ended questions, can get kids engaged with current events, especially if we don’t start out with lectures.
Making Politics RELEVANT for the Purpose of Activating and Exercising Middle Schoolers’ Thinking Skills
The GOP’s recent use of the Nuclear Option, in order to blast through the Democrats’ attempt to filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, offers plenty of potential to increase kids’ awareness and involvement with the world they’re growing into – if we open the subject by establishing relevance. (Actually, when it comes to successfully educating today’s youth, nothing – NOTHING – is a more essential responsibility of teachers than establishing relevance.)
Suggestions for Open-Ended Questions to Activate and Exercise Thinking Skills for Relevant Peer Group Discussions
(Start broadly in order to create relevance through known associations.)
- Have you ever been playing a game with some kids, and out of no where one (or more of them) announced different rules? Who has a story about a time like that?
- How did you react? If other kids were involved, how did they react to the sudden rule changes?
- WHY do you think that person (or people) made that sudden rule change? HOW did they justify their new rule to you (and to the other players)?
- Did their justifications (reasons) make sense to you? Why or why not?
- What happened next?
- Name some of your favorite sports and favorite teams. What is it that you like most about those sports / those teams / those players? Share some specifics with the rest of our group.
- Is there anything you don’t like about those sports / those teams / those players? Share some specifics with the rest of our group.
- What does the term “Nuclear Option” mean? (Encourage students to say the first thing that comes to their mind when they hear that term. Be open to all their contributions. Explain that you’re all exploring new ideas together – so “mistakes” demonstrate effort, and nothing negative.)
- Does anyone know what it means when it’s associated with interactions and decision-making in the U.S. Senate? (Very brief explanation: The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the U.S. Senate to override / change a rule … with a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of with a supermajority of 60 votes … effectively ending a 60-vote requirement for confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee or the passage of legislation.)
- How could this possibly matter to your life?
- Do any of you know how the Senate responded to Obama’s candidate for Supreme Court Judge – just a few months before he left office?
- Let’s think about some reasons that might have been behind the recent implementation of the Nuclear Option.
- Again … how could this possibly matter to your life?
- The role of judges is to interpret laws objectively. Is anyone ever completely objective? Why do you think that? What examples can you give of people being completely objective? What about examples of people (coaches, referees, parents, teachers, police, friends, teammates, etc.) being partially objective?
Educators’ Critical Responsibility: Activate and Exercise Students’ Thinking Skills – Their Futures Depend On It.
“In our evolving world, the ability to think is fast becoming more desirable than any fixed set of skills or knowledge. We need problem solvers, decision makers and innovators. We need to prepare our children for their future, not for our past.” – Mike Fleetham