4 Ways Schools Can Effect a Smarter Electorate


How important is it for educators to know that the electorate makes decisions about candidates primarily by their emotions, rather than through reasoning?  But before this question can be answered, we must first consider other questions:

1. Should schools play a role in having an informed citizenry that can apply reasoning to political issues?

Decades ago a consensus formed that schools do play this role in our society.  This is reflected in part through the school curriculum, which includes courses on government and history.  Character education programs also often include good citizenship as one of their important principles.  In 1930, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:
“. . . remember that on the public school largely depends the success or the failure of our great experiment in government “by the people, for the people.”

2. Do we know how to provide students with the reasoning skills needed to tackle complex political issues?

An abundance of teaching strategies are available for teachers to guide their students to reason about significant topics.

Some strategies:

  • Model our own reasoning
  • Debates
  • Review and discuss case studies
  • Require reasoned position papers
  • Analyze statements by candidates and their surrogates

I wonder what percentage of teachers in schools employ these approaches as opposed to the all too familiar lecture method.

3. If we do provide students with these skills and attitudes, how can this be sustained into adulthood?

Maybe you have some ideas about this question.  I would love to hear them.  You can post them in the Comment section.

I believe that through more engaged types of learning, and encouraging students to follow what’s happening in the world, we can get them to ‘feel in their bones’, why our founding documents are so special.  They need to understand that our constitution is not self-sustaining; that it lives through the lives of women and men who cherish it’s basic principles.  And that emotion detached from reason will lead to chaos and the destruction of our institutions.

4. Should all emotions be taken out of political decisions?

Even if we thought it desirable, it would be impossible.  We are human beings after all; with both rational and emotional sides.  Intuition and feelings about candidates will always play, and should play a role in evaluating them.  Students should know this and maybe even learn to further develop their intuitive skills.

But if we let our emotions rule, we become prisoners to them.  They rule us, rather than the other way around.  White hot emotion blinds us to what is right and can lead to mob rule (a persistent fear of the Founders), placing our democracy in danger.  Just like our government has checks and balances, our emotions need to be checked by our rational side.

Now back to the original question:  How important is it for educators to know that the electorate makes decisions about candidates primarily by their emotions, rather than through reasoning?

I believe that educators are obligated to help sustain our nation’s values, principles and key institutions.  If most of the electorate makes decisions based upon emotional responses, rather than primarily through rational thought, educators have a duty to assist in correcting this imbalance.


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Comments are encouraged and welcomed.



4 Ways to Build Trust In Schools

trust3Trust is the glue that holds organizations together.  Unfortunately, some leaders don’t grasp this truth and work in ways that destroy, rather than build trust in their schools. They undermine their own goals, many of which may be very worthy.  Goals can only be reached if the support exists to faithfully implement the plans to do so.  It is unlikely this will happen in a culture marked by mistrust.

In this post, I list 4 ways that school leaders can demonstrate that they are worthy of gaining the trust of those they supervise.

If you violate the norms of the school culture and come across like a bull in a china shop, it is unlikely your ideas will gain more than grudging acceptance.  You will be viewed with mistrust because the only person you listened to, was yourself.

  • Listen and learn about the organization before making any changes
  • Learn the culture and history of the school
  • Find out what programs worked and failed in the past
  • Focus on developing positive relationships with staff

If the staff believes that you are not credible in you pronouncements, why should they follow you? 

  • Involve staff in creating school priorities
  • Provide reasoned arguments for the adoption of a new program or technique
  • Demonstrate your concern for students and staff through your comments and actions
  • Demonstrate an excellent knowledge about your program, including research to support your position

Think about those people you have worked with who were and were not reliable.  Which ones gained your trust?

  • Can you be counted on to follow through on your commitments?
  • Act in ways that merit confidence in you as a person
  • Be consistent in your demeanor and approach to problems
  • Be visible; show up on time; don’t over commit

Is it possible to have trust in a leader who acts unfairly?  Why?

  • Share the credit for school successes
  • Treat all with the respect they deserve
  • When  making decisions get input from those who will be directly affected by the decision
  • Provide staff with specific recommendations for improvement and give time to implement them before taking punitive steps
  • Show that you are willing to assess ideas from others based upon their value, even if different from your own positions

A culture where trust permeates the school allows for genuine collaboration.  It is the medium through which you gain high staff morale and a commitment to excellence.  It is the only path to success for you and your school.