Saturday, January 21, 2017


While many schools around the country were likely using Inauguration Day Friday as a teachable moment of history and government, discussion inside Maplewood Middle School was somewhat muted, according to several teachers and students.

Several instructors, who requested anonymity, said they were told not to discuss the swearing-in of Donald Trump without a specific lesson plan approved by Principal Dara Gronau. Several students said the principal told them not to discuss it when they were overheard. 

"Some directs quotes from our principal: 'please be careful,' 'try to stay away from it'," one teacher said. "This election, like the one eight years ago, is historic, I consider it a teachable moment that was snatched from us teachers."

Both teachers and students said their was a feeling that they could not discuss the swearing-in and that their ability to talk about it in a debatable way was suppressed.

This occurred the same day that student walkouts to protest Trump were held at Columbia High School and South Orange Middle School with district support.

Gronau did not respond to requests for comment, with a request referred to District Spokeswoman Suzanne Turner, who sent this statement via email:

The principal held a staff meeting earlier this week to discuss 
the possibility of having students watch the inauguration. 
Ms. Gronau informed staff that the inauguration could be viewed 
in class if the teacher had a clear instructional plan for learning 
outcomes for the students, and shared the plan in advance with the
principal. No teacher shared an instructional plan for showing 
the inauguration.


michaleen said...

If it is such a teachable moment, why couldn't the teachers create a subject-appropriate lesson plan? You could discuss each administration's approach to science or the math involved in Trump's budget ideas.

Ms. Gronau also has to take into account that a small percentage of students support Trump or have parents who do. Without established parameters for the lesson, these middle-schoolers would likely feel intimidated or at least uncomfortable in a political conversation. As much as I agree with the sentiment, I think Ms. Gronau was right to ask the teachers to do something more than flip on the TV and talk about how awful Trump is.

Rosemary McLaughlin said...

The best teachable moments are often those which are a departure from plan. As admirable as it is for Ms.Gronau to be sensitive to different views by telling instructors they needed formal assignments (rather than general guidelines to facilitate thoughtful, respectful discussion) the outcome was, apparently, a missed opportunity. The assumption that teachers would simply "flip on the tv and talk about how awful Trump is" is based on what?

michaleen said...

As the parent of a middle schooler, it is difficult to get my child to talk about the election/inauguration beyond how terrible Trump is and how fearful the school population is about him. Admittedly, a lot of that is due to my negative feelings about Trump.

That's how the conversation would tend to go in the classroom, except you'd have 20 kids expressing those thoughts and competing as to who can do it most vehemently. When you're a child, any situation where you're outnumbered 90-10 can be very intimidating. Here, a lot of the kids don't even have a grasp of the issues but might be hearing at home that Trump was the better candidate.

It's nice to encourage respectful discussion, but if I were in Ms. Gronau's shoes, I'd want a lesson plan to ensure that the class doesn't turn into 22 versus 3. More likely, it would be 22 versus 0 with those 3 children remaining silent and conflicted about their family's feelings versus the overwhelming school opinion.

Engage Maplewood said...

When my kids were in the high school they knew what they had to do to get a good grade when they were studying political cartoons, and that was to bring in the most disrespectful cartoon they could find about George W. Bush at the time. Although we loved our liberal town and we consider ourselves a Democratic family, I still think the lack of diversity in thought can be limiting. I think that's what got us into this predictamint by only believing that everyone in the country has the same view and so no need to go out and vote in what will be a landslide. A discussion of why people might have differing points of views, other than that they are ignorant and uneducated or worse, could have been a real teachable moment.

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