Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Clark County teachers address U.S. Capitol chaos as unfolding history

Mountain View High teacher turns current events into lesson on critical thinking

By , Columbian staff writer

One day after pro-Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, Mountain View High School history teacher Dan Larson put a pause on a World War I unit in favor of current history unfolding.

Larson taped an eight-minute video as a point of discussion for his students in U.S. History. His objective didn’t revolve around names, facts or dates; instead, he focused on the importance of being thoughtful, critical thinkers.

“The content knowledge is important, and learning is important,” he said, “but if we want to do better as a society, we need those thoughtful skills imprinted on them and hopefully they’re more thoughtful about realizing that’s kind of the goal of what we’re doing here.”

Thursday, many Clark County educators addressed to students the events that unfolded Wednesday in the nation’s capital. Cameron Chilcote’s eighth-grade U.S. History curriculum at Gaiser Middle School doesn’t dip into current world issues, he said, but rather focuses on relating history to what’s relevant now. Students just began a unit on the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and Chilcote added he plans to get into the impact of this week’s events once he covers the First Amendment.

In a traditional in-person setting, Larson at Mountain View knows what occurred Wednesday and subsequent events would have dominated classroom discussion. But in remote learning, he settled for the next-best thing to connect to students through a self-recorded video since only one of his three U.S. History classes met live Thursday.

As a teacher, Larson echoed how it’s important to leave out personal views or biases and let students draw their own conclusions with information given.

“As teachers,” he said, “we’re here to get you to think, not tell you what we think.”

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, a former history teacher, stressed Thursday in a statement “our young people are watching these events unfold and they are looking to us for contextualization.

“Educators and families are answering questions and providing reassurance to our students – even as they are making sense of the events themselves.”

He added: “(Wednesday’s) events make abundantly clear that our schools must engage and empower students, from an early age, with opportunities to participate in civil conversations, examples of effective civic engagement and tools to find peaceful solutions to community problems.”