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The migrant caravan, the Pittsburg synagogue, Charlottesville, and Parkland High School. They’re all significant events that have dominated the airwaves, and they’ve been the focus of heated political debate.

Educators know their students are aware of the events, but they can be understandably hesitant to broach the difficult topics with their class.

Could something get lost in translation? How might a parent react? What if a teacher is accused of pushing a political agenda?

“They (teachers) want to be able to talk about this, but at the same time they are so afraid to do it,” says Jennifer Rich, an assistant professor in the College of Education at Rowan University.

Rich, who is also the director of research and education for the Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies believes there is a way to talk about these heated issues without pushing your politics.

“I think that we can open the conversation and allow students to lead the conversation, without getting involved.”

Recently, Rich wrote an opinion piece for the Hechinger Report about discussing the migrant caravan with students.

She also broached the topic with her students a few weeks ago, and she told us about five takeaways from her experience.

  1. Admit Mistakes
  2. Remember the rule of “good intentions.”
  3. Enter into the conversation from a place of curiosity
  4. Don’t have a firm end-goal
  5. Allow everyone a voice, even when you disagree

In Episode 78 of the Class Dismissed podcast, Rich offers in-depth strategies for discussing difficult topics. To learn more, listen to Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.

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