What follows is pure observation from my daily interactions with my young students (granted, I work in a red state with fairly conservative kids). The students have a reputation for being lazy and whiny (faculty perpetually complain about it - the irony is painful). And that reputation is deserved. However, I still get curious as to what my students actually think. Thus, I tend to bring up debates that are relevant to them and ask them to respond to both sides. A few examples:
- In a recent mock debate in my class, my students did a decent job of arguing for and against drug use in professional sports (Lance Armstrong was a good news hook for them). I was surprised to see how passionate the “against” groups were. Their argument was based on the importance of raw talent and hard work. Of course, the arguments were generalized, and I did have to cut off some screaming at a certain point. But overwhelmingly, my classes voted for being “against” drugs in sports because it ruined the hard work of good athletes.
- I have 7-8 female students (black and white) writing persuasive essays on abortion (usually I ban the topic) this semester - only one is writing from the pro-choice stance. Each of the other females is arguing that the practice is murder.
- I do a project based off of the “Shark Tank” show, where contestants present their business to investors. In groups, my students have to present a formal and well-written business proposal and pitch to the rest of the class while the CEOs ask questions and debate the merits of the company. There is always a class where this project falls flat, but, for the most part, my students love it. The idea of creating a business is fun and energizing for them.
- One of my most informed students asked me about the Electoral College and why we still use it. He then showed me a picture of the red state/blue state map and wondered how we had a new blue president when most of the country was “red.”
Here's the thing: in the last few years, I hear many of students give inherently conservative principles as their ideas, but they absolutely and positively do not connect that with limited government. This group of millennials, for instance, bought the “student loans will disappear” argument for President Obama hook, line, and sinker.
Now, to be sure, this age group is ridiculously uninformed. Everyday I repeat to myself: They just don’t know. They just don’t know. And, I remind myself that it is impossible to compete with the barrage of friends and social media they get.
What to do? I sincerely thought that if I used my platform in the classroom to change my student’s views (not that I could) - I would be worse than a liberal harping on Bush’s “failures” in a classroom. After getting over my nausea from reading next semester’s textbook (oh, the liberalism - it burns. If Ricochet writers took over textbooks, we might have a chance), I may have to rethink my policy. Any thoughts or ideas for bringing conservatism to millennials in the classroom?