What We Learned from this Election

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“Uffda!” as we say in Minnesota, the state with the highest voter turnout rates. What an election!

Call it what you want — “an upset” might be the best description — but it’s not that unusual and, if historic trends are any indication, the same frustrating things we all said “ughh” about will happen again in 4 or 8 years…unless we all learned a little more about how this actually works.

Designing the Election Challenge taught us a few things:

Teaching It is a Challenge:

It’s hard to teach about the U.S. presidential election system because it’s inherently undemocratic. Teachers don’t want to say “your vote might not matter as much in winner-take-all solid states” or “the Electoral College wasn’t just set up to balance big and small states, but also…slavery” just like they don’t want to tell kindergarteners what Columbus actually did to the Arawak Indians. Sometimes, it’s just easier to paste cotton balls as clouds on your kindergarten cutouts of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria ships rather than analyze the historical legacy of a complex topic…

I don’t know for sure, but the more we design games and ask better questions for students (and then learn along with them), the more they seem to dive into figuring it out on their own.

And maybe figuring it out on our own, with help from well-educated coaches and well-researched content, is what makes America great!

Every student mentioned the influence of Media:

Social Media is a game-changer and needs better teaching and learning around it as much as Civics education does. It is Civics education!

I’m inspired by what groups like the News Literacy Project are starting to do. Or by what South Korean students learn about “Netiquette” early on in school.

We started FANschool from the frustration that our students were constantly connected, but didn’t seem to be developing any beneficial habits for interacting with real, good, world news on a daily basis.

Is the first step is to be better examples in these digital spaces ourselves?

Maybe we got Trump because the news cycle perpetuates negativity:

Before I had fanschool.org in my classroom, we watched episodes of nightly news broadcasts every other Friday. I’ll never forget the first time I realized my students would audibly empathize with a dog trapped in a flood more than a human. It was like they had become desensitized to real human drama so the news started giving them the Kardashian-Kanye type drama to keep ratings up.

Iran’s “Green Movement” in 2009 and 2011, for example, was largely communicated to the world through Twitter, but it immediately stopped trending when Michael Jackson’s death swept social media.

Maybe the real problem isn’t social media, but our understanding (or lack thereof) of what’s really happening in places like Iran.

We have to meet students where they were, then dive deeper into learning with them! But that doesn’t mean we have to cycle negativity.

We need to make the news-delivery method more engaging.

Getting the other half of Americans to vote won’t happen because of click-bait or celebrity campaigns:

We don’t need more “Rock your Vote” efforts the few weeks before Election Day.

We need more “Rock your Primary,” “Rock your Caucus,” “Rock your Midterm Election,” and “Rock your Civics Class” efforts so that young people understand how hard it is to elect Bernie Sanders.

At least not many are saying “Vote or Die” anymore, but becoming numb in response to feeling dumb isn’t any better.

Media and Education companies need to stop dumbing it down with chocolate-covered-brocolli click-campaigns and marketing-funnels and try harder to put really complex understandings in students’ sweet spot for learning more.

If we keep spinning up interactive electoral maps and click-to-vote campaigns as cheaply as possible to capitalize on them as efficiently as possible, we’ll keep getting the same poor results.

Ignorance is not a virtue: Keep the learning going!

A smart man recently said, “The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that.”

If you want to improve the world, keep giving a buck!

We’ll all go crazy if we keep doing this same old stuff every two or four years, expecting different results…

There’s no better time than the present (or the near future) to teach about the past Election.

Keep asking these still-fitting Essential Election questions and check out the following Election Explainers with students:

Remember, this year’s 9th graders are not just the first class to have been born after September 11th, 2001 — they’ll also elect the next U.S. President.

Game On.

(written by FANgeopolitics)

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Founded by teachers and technologists, we turn students into FANs of learning with fantasy sports-like games for school content + current events.

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