Why Current Events Should be Discussed in School

Ally Stapleton, Editor in Chief

As you sit reading this article, there are approximately 7,316,100,000 people alive on Earth.

Somewhere around 83 million of those people live in Egypt, where the former president has recently been sentenced to death by a court.

Another 28 million of them are living in Nepal and dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake which killed over 8,000 people and severely damaged national landmarks and infrastructure.

622,000 live in Baltimore, Maryland, where racially-charged tensions between police and civilians recently boiled over into damaging riots and sparked a national debate about the use of force by police.

629,000 are fellow inhabitants of Kent County, where homelessness reached its highest level in seven years as of this month.

In today’s society, where all seven billion people on the earth are connected by ties of technology and mass communication, it is more important than ever for all people, including students, to be informed about current events. In spite of this, current events are rarely discussed in class. High school students are part of a complex and ever-changing world that is already affecting their lives, and it is the responsibility of schools to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in this world when they leave the sheltered walls of high school. The students of Forest Hills Central High School are sharing a planet with seven billion other people: it will serve them well in the future to know what is happening on that planet.

The purpose of school is to learn things that will allow students to be successful, contributing members of society once they graduate. A basic knowledge of current events is one of the most practical things a student can learn: this knowledge has everyday, real-life applications. Students see a reflection of Middle Eastern conflict every time they put gas in their cars. They witness state and federal tax policy when they get a portion of their Jimmy John’s paycheck taken away each month. Current events do affect students, and the more students know about what is going on in the world around them, the better they can handle its effects on them and the greater impact they can have on it.

Does this mean that the Forest Hills Public Schools should eliminate math requirements to make room for classes focused solely on major news, or that teachers should scrap their Chemistry lectures in order to have heated debates about politics? Should high schoolers discuss the latest elections instead of their day-to-day lives at lunch? Of course not. The beauty of talking about current events in school is that students do not have to make drastic changes to their lives in order to become informed about the country and the world that they live in. Students are busy: just as they can’t be trusted to teach themselves algebra and biology and Spanish verb tenses at home, they shouldn’t be expected to spend their free time investigating the latest news stories. The solution that has been used with math, science, social studies, English, and all the other areas of knowledge which students must master in order to succeed beyond high school, is to incorporate them into the school-day.

This is not an earth-shattering, curriculum-upending, or lesson-plan-thwarting addition to class. Incorporating current events into the school-day would simply mean that, when a major news event occurs, teachers would mention it and perhaps allow some brief discussion. Discussing current events makes students more aware of the world they live in and provides them with an opportunity to justify ideas and articulate thoughts. If teachers truly want to prepare their students to make a difference in today’s globally interconnected society, they must equip students with knowledge about the lives of the other seven billion people with whom they will one day negotiate, learn, and live.