November 23, 2022
By Laurel White
UW-Madison School of Education faculty, programs, and alumni were featured in several articles this fall about how educators are approaching teaching about elections in the face of increased political polarization and teacher scrutiny.
Diana Hess, Dean of the School of Education and an expert on political education, gave an insight into the challenges of the current political time detailed cover story from the Cap Times.
“People often say, ‘Well, I want the schools in my community to reflect my views, just as I want them to be a literal mirror of my views,'” Hess said. “We shouldn’t want that. We should want schools to be a place where young people learn to make decisions about important questions that have multiple and competing answers.”
The Cap Times story, which ran the day after the election, also included insight from Jeremy Stoddard, professor and faculty chair of the secondary education program at the School of Education. The story highlighted one of Stoddard’s recent research projects, an interactive teaching tool called PurpleState. PurpleState allows students to step into the shoes of a political advisor, delving into real-world data and creating a media campaign. The simulation aims to shed light on the inner workings of political messages and to promote a deeper understanding of some of the reasons for political polarization.
In the story, Stoddard spoke about PurpleState’s learning outcomes.
“When[students]see an ad or when they see a message on their Instagram feed or where they’re getting it from, they’re a lot more aware of why are they seeing it?” Stoddard explained. “You’re asking these questions, why is it showing up?”
Suzanne Eckes, the Susan S. Engeleiter Professor of Education Law, Policy and Practice at the School of Education, also offered her expertise on laws surrounding educators’ freedom of speech in the classroom. As noted in the story, Eckes spoke on the topic in a session at the “Teaching About the 2022 Elections” conference hosted by the Office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE) of the School of Education at UW-Madison in September .
Stoddard and his work were also featured in a history of the Wisconsin State Journalpublished on November 22, aBout teaching about politics and elections.
“With schools, we have an opportunity to combat some of the things that lead to polarization,” Stoddard said in that story.
Both the Cap Times and State Journal stories featured two School of Education graduates, Casey Farner and Luke Piwoni, who currently work as high school teachers in Wisconsin. Farner and Piwoni offered insights and examples from recent teaching experiences.
Piwoni told the Cap Times “that the volume in politics has gotten a little louder” since he started teaching 15 years ago. He said it increased his focus on the issues and getting to know his classroom ahead of potentially heated conversations.
“You’ll know when certain issues really, really come up, then you just have to step back for a minute and think about how we’re going to approach that, where we can actually have a good conversation and at least bring up multiple perspectives,” Piwoni said. “Then students can use that information to determine whether they agree or disagree with certain things, or if they have a better solution.”
Farner told the State Journal that his students “did a great job of remembering that you have a voice, you will have a voice, and your one vote means as much as my one vote, as much as their vote.” Neighbors.”
“And I think that’s powerful for them,” he said.
Read the full Cap Times story here and full State Journal history here.
Hess was there too WKOW’s “Capital Sunday” in September. She spoke about the value of quality elective education.