What inauguration day looked like in schools
NEW CARLISLE, Ind. - It’s been just over 24 hours since our nation got a new President and Vice President at a key time in our nation's history. Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are taking office in the middle of a pandemic, political frustrations, and racial tensions across our nation.
Subjects prompting tough discussions at schools across Michiana.
Normally inauguration day is a day where history classes come alive in high schools across Michiana. But this year discussions were more difficult, focusing on political beliefs and race. We had a unique opportunity to take our cameras inside the special day.
A moment in history watched all over the world and shown live to one senior history class at New Prairie High School.
"From there, a lot of it is geared more just towards the history the process," Mark Schellinger, the Social Studies Department Head said.
With the riot at the capitol and the controversy surrounding the election of President Joe Biden, making the decision to show the inauguration at all was a hard one.
"Our senior U.S., our senior government course, our social studies department met as a team, and in reviewed the situation," Paul White New Prairie United Schools Superintendent said.
Although the politics and history classes normally show live streams of big political events, a lot more went into the decision to broadcast the inauguration to students.
"Well, the responsibility to educate and the responsibility to develop citizens in a democracy. And part of that is being able to understand the history behind something and to understand both sides of a situation, and to be able to evaluate the facts and the information that's available and try to draw your own conclusions. We have a responsibility as a public school system to develop and foster that, so it just didn't make sense to us, to sort of walk away from that," White said. "It's a very natural part of our curriculum to understand how our democracy works, how elections work how the transfer of authority in the white house works. And then it would fit our controversial topics policy to address it.”
With the policy, the school decided to move forward with showing the ceremony trying their best to stay impartial and on the subject.
"We have an important role to stay as neutral as we can and to help students navigate both sides of it, instead of or as opposed to trying to push or force our own personal views, which wouldn't be appropriate, and by our school system or policy, we would not be allowed to do, we're specifically asked to avoid that," White said. "And sort of answer that call of duty of helping students sort of navigate and understand both sides of the situation and come to their own views."
“I don't know if shutting it down is necessarily the right answer. We'll just kind of talking to them about why they think that way. You know, and more than the why and then and just tried to present facts for them," Schellinger said.
“Students that voted, that are already participating in our democracy, so why shy away from engaging them in it, and in we think with the culture that we built we can navigate those things reasonably in the classroom and make sure it's, it's appropriate in nature and helpful as opposed to a detriment for those students," White said.
"We've had discussions in here about current events and they've handled very well you know I even told them, I think sometimes they handle it better than some of the adults," Schellinger said.
But what happens if rioting or disruption to the ceremony did happen?
"We would not automatically turn it off. Just as we didn't automatically turn it off. You know when, when things happen on January 6th because again we have a responsibility to help a particularly a senior in high school in a government course, understand, you know what is happening, what are the reasons behind what is happening," White said. "But as things occurred, we would have to make decisions real-time, you know, when if there was a point that, that we felt it was necessary to turn off but we wouldn't initially do that, but hopefully that won't be something that will be necessary to look at today."
"As a teacher, I would hope that a school is a place where we can kind of lead them in the right direction with their thoughts, you know, and encourage them to kind of think about the big picture in history happening as we're watching it. But if it got too. Too bad you know we're students were really struggling with I think we'd have to make a decision to shut it off," Schellinger said.
School officials I talked with believe yesterday’s discussions are just the first of many tough conversations classes involving politics and history will have this year.