Editorial: Poly Should Mandate Discussions About Current Events

The Editorial Board

Students spend hours each day sitting in class taking the basic required courses: math, history, English, science, and language. Yet, current events—the most important and pressing issues happening each day—are not formally incorporated into our education. From global humanitarian crises and conflicts to U.S. elections, landmark Supreme Court rulings to racial injustice, these critical events should be prioritized just as heavily as the rest of our education. Most students learn about current events through social media, but there are few consistent and established spaces to have meaningful conversations. Some students may be completely unaware of crucial global or even local affairs. Having spaces dedicated to the education and discussion of current events will give us all the opportunity to meaningfully converse with each other, gain greater perspective, and ultimately become more informed global citizens.


Classrooms are one of the best and most important places to facilitate and engage in conversations about news and current events. For the most part, school is a place full of familiar faces and relatable belief systems, where students are used to expressing opinions and ideas with others comfortably. So why not use this already familiar space to have more challenging discussions? Discussions in school about current events allow students to engage in conversations that they may not be having at home, as well as create a space where students are all aware of the same topics and feel comfortable talking about them. 


We propose that all teachers should occasionally be required to use the first ten to fifteen minutes of their first period class to open the floor for discourse surrounding news and current events. Each time there is an event deemed relevant by students and faculty, teachers will receive a comprehensive set of details pertaining to the event, and how to go about discussing it. Whether it be through various news articles or an outline of talking points, teachers will have something to work off of when leading these discussions. The responsibility of distributing this information can be given to either Director of Upper School Sarah Bates or Director of Student Life Jared Winston, both of whom already contribute to the school’s response to current events through chapels, forums, and emails, or another faculty member who feels passionate about a certain topic or issue. Once given this information, teachers can summarize the event before asking students if they have any thoughts or comments to share with the class. In the same email with information on the incident, faculty members may also add conversation questions to invoke dialogue between students and teachers.


Chapels, forums, or school-wide emails are not as effective at discussing current events because student interaction is limited, and participating in larger settings can be daunting for many. Chapels don’t normally offer time for discussion, and are not frequent enough for pressing, relevant current events to be talked about in real time. Sporadic forums are not mandated, so only students who seek out these discussions are getting involved and informed. Lastly, school-wide emails do not offer discussion spaces for students to interact and understand on a comprehensive level. 


After all, current events are world-altering, and even if the event is not relevant to the class where it is being discussed, certain students or teachers in that classroom may be affected by it. While the Polygon is an outlet for students to write about important or interesting news and opinions, it is only published about once a month. Because of the intensity of the events that would be discussed, the Polygon is not sufficient to create  valuable discussions about these events at the right time. Even if there isn’t a very active discussion in these first ten minutes of class, having a mandatory time to discuss these events will help students and faculty acknowledge, and recognize the importance of these events.


With the addition of these mandated discussions, it is crucial to be mindful of how we decide what is “worthy” of discussion. For example, all students should be made aware of what the media is focusing on currently — like the tragic earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the shooting at Michigan State, or the death of Tyre Nichols – the list could go on forever. Students are already learning about these events from social media, the news, and from their friends and family, so class discussion will further the conversations already happening outside of school. Additionally, students and faculty should be able to send in suggestions to Winston or Bates, via email, Google form, or simply word of mouth, of current events that they would like to discuss in the classroom. 


Poly strives to craft a generation of leaders and critical thinkers, and current event discussions will aid in reaching that goal. The opportunity to converse about such topics rather than just scrolling past social media posts will deepen students’ understanding of the importance of the event. Spending a little bit of time engaging in conversations about significant events will keep Poly students truly informed and educated. It will also get Poly students more used to talking about topics that may be uncomfortable, which is a crucial skill for teenagers to develop. With the addition of meaningful current event discussions, students will  develop a more worldly understanding of current issues as well as hone their discussion skills.