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How teachers plan to discuss the Capitol riots with students one year later

Capitol riot
Posted at 10:10 AM, Jan 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 12:45:09-05

The anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots poses a question for teachers — how to discuss the deadly riots with their students.

Anton Schulzki, the president of the National Council for Social Studies, says a number of colleagues he's talked with will bring up the topic in some way. He said the conversations will be far different than the ones they may have had with their students a year ago.

"Those conversations will be likely along the lines of what's changed in the last year, as opposed to looking at the immediacy of the event from what happened to now. Let's begin to reflect upon it," Schulzki said.

Schulzki said teachers must also consider the ages of students when deciding to talk about the riots. He says the topic would be more appropriate for middle and high school students.

Schulzki says that he'll have a short conversation about how the past affects the present in his classroom.

"I'm asking my students to really go beyond the immediacy, even in the last year," he said. "I would say, OK, how are historians, in the future, going to look back at this?"

Facing History and Ourselves is a nonprofit that supports teachers who want to start those conversations. The group has teaching materials on its website for teachers who wish to discuss the riots with their students.

"I think that there's some anxiety for a lot of teachers about how to approach it," said Abby Weiss with Facing History and Ourselves. "That said, I think they do feel a responsibility, and really, a need to make sure that students have all the information, that they understand how to really be news literate and understand the difference between facts and misinformation."

Weiss says that a year ago, the website had 100,000 page views just hours after they posted their teaching resources.

Recently, they've seen renewed interest. The group has updated its teaching materials to mark the one-year anniversary of the riots.

"To look at the human behavior and to look at the mob and who participated in the insurrection and why," Weiss said. "Because most of the folks who went there that day went to the Capitol were actually not intending to commit violence. And so, what does that mean? What does that look like? What does it take for a person to be in that situation and actually switch their motivation, and to participate in something they hadn't anticipated?"

Schulzki says the home is an excellent place to start conversations about the Capitol riots with kids. He recommends parents contact their child's teacher to see if they'll be bringing it up and get their advice about bringing it up at home.