News is fit to teach

Dec. 19, 2002, midnight | By Lily Hamburger | 18 years, 1 month ago

After four years of English, math and history, the average high school student could tell you the solution to 35=3x-1 and the name of the guy who said, "I have a dream." But you need only to ask around to find that the average American teenager lacks much knowledge of this week's front-page headlines.

Many Blazers have an inadequate understanding of our national political system and never question the intentions of the U.S. as apt citizens should. Social studies teacher Cassandra Heath claims that several of her students are ignorant of political issues like the turbulent 2000 presidential election and the prevalence of terrorism in 2001. Sadly, if you asked the average American teenager to define the Electoral College, he'd be likely to reply, "Sorry, I'm not applying there."

But it's not the students' fault that they aren't being taught about contemporary politics. High school curricula should involve discussion of current events alongside history lessons in order to produce conscientious, intelligent citizens who will actively shape society.

While teaching a heavy load of required studies, some Blair teachers do make an extra effort to keep students informed. Social studies teacher Joann Malone incorporates current events into her classes as much as possible because she wants to show students that they are a part of history right now. "Focusing on current events gives students motivation to get active and involved," she said. "It's empowering youth to show them what they can do with their lives and how they can have an effect on politics and solving problems."

Heath noted that without awareness of what's going on in the world, students fail to recognize their role in society and the impact that they can have as young adults. "A lot of teens don't understand their power politically," she said. "Knowing current events shows people their place and gives them context as citizens."

Besides sparking social awareness and activism, current events give meaning to history, make lessons more relevant and give the schooling a direct purpose. "You have to do the history," said Malone. "But it doesn't have to be boring and unrelated to current events."

History especially lends itself to the incorporation of news into the curriculum. In a diverse community such as Blair's, teaching about the Civil Rights movement beside current race issues such as stereotyping and Affirmative Action are essential to addressing racial tensions. Lessons on World War II and the Vietnam War would relate to the U.S. government's current military affairs.

Unfortunately, Blair teachers have been buried under the load of information that they are required to teach in prescribed curricula. "We've become cogs in a machine," said Heath. She's right: Teachers like Malone should not have to go out of their way to enlighten students about what is happening outside Blair's walls. We need that social literacy. Schools can eradicate teens' ignorance by making current events a mandatory part of any history lesson.

For more on current events with a Blair spin, visit Silver Chips Online's new National News section at

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Lily Hamburger. Lily Hamburger, managing sports editor, is a proud senior and back for another year on <i>Chips</i>. Lily is a sports fan, a singer, and a softball player. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese, favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip and favorite ninja … More »

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