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home : news : local   May 29, 2016

3/18/2013 10:59:00 AM
Teachers explain balance of politics in curriculum


Joe Furlan, a government teacher at Hall High School in Spring Valley, talks with a sophomore government class about an article from The Associated Press he assigned his class to read dealing with background checks for gun purchases Wednesday. Teachers —  such as Furlan — bring up current issues facing legislatures in government/social science classes to bring lessons about the history of our nation’s government full circle.NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
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Joe Furlan, a government teacher at Hall High School in Spring Valley, talks with a sophomore government class about an article from The Associated Press he assigned his class to read dealing with background checks for gun purchases Wednesday. Teachers —  such as Furlan — bring up current issues facing legislatures in government/social science classes to bring lessons about the history of our nation’s government full circle.

NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Kevin Caufield
NewsTribune Reporter



St. Bede Academy history teacher Karrie Damerell’s students discuss a variety of political and current events topics in her history classes.
Damerell’s sophomores spend a portion of their Friday class time discussing the news clippings they brought in whether it’s about “Octomom” or the state pension crisis. Her honors class seniors talk more extensively about such issues, although some prefer to sit back and absorb information.
“We don’t get into deep political debates in the classroom,” Damerell explained. “I get students to talk about it in the classroom and hope that outside of the classroom they will discuss these topics with their mom and dad or their peers.”
Politically heavy topics such as sequestration, gun control, and the Illinois pension crisis can be difficult areas to tackle for local high school teachers. But they also offer those same teachers excellent opportunities to teach students the importance of becoming active members of society.
Hall High School teacher Joe Furlan teaches government and U.S. history.
Furlan said he oftentimes when teaching history will use current events as an example of what similar events had taken place in the past.
“The goal is to have them better informed so they can make better decisions later on,” he said. “It shows them that they have a power of the vote and can change things.”
Furlan’s homework assignments will require students to find a news or magazine article about a current political topic that is relevant to the past. Then Furlan and students will discuss it in class.
“You try to keep political parties out of it and guide the discussion,” he said. “I’m surprised. There are a number of students who keep up with current events. And, of course, there are those that if they know anything about current events, it’s what I’m teaching them.”
Although the role politics plays on American society is important, many will agree that it can be tedious and boring; perhaps even more so for many high school students.
Tyler VanLandeghem, a history teacher at La Salle Peru Township High School, tries to break up that boredom with humor.
His students create weekly current event responses and relate them to government. When topics such as the sequester come up, they discuss it in class. And every now and again VanLandeghem will bring in some Saturday Night Live clips to show his students the comedy show’s perspective on things.
“Comprehending the complexity of such issues like the ‘sequester’ — it is not easy to understand the intricacies of government finance,” he said. “I most often provide the view of both sides. I enjoy playing devil’s advocate and giving the students all of the perspectives.”
And, “(they) really enjoy when we show clips from ‘Saturday Night Live’ that put a humorous slant on the news.”

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or countyreporter@newstrib.com.












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