WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - Teachers and students at Walnut Ridge School District didn’t shy away from discussing the U.S. Capitol riot Thursday.
Grant Smith teaches 7th and 8th grade social studies at Walnut Ridge Middle School, and the riot that happened Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol was at the front of his students’ minds Thursday.
“They do want to talk about it and discuss it though. In just about every class, I’ve had they’ve said ‘hey, Mr. Smith, have you seen what happened on the TV at the Capitol yesterday? Wasn’t that crazy and stuff,’” said Smith.
Smith said he set time aside at the beginning of each class Thursday to talk about the riot with his students.
Talking about such a historic, polarized event can be challenging, though.
“I want to set up in the classroom a framework of different opinions and kind of discuss the pros and cons of each and kind of guide students to say hey, you don’t want to get too extreme with this but you still want to be able to express yourself and have an opinion,” said Smith.
Students at Walnut Ridge High School also discussed the Wednesday riot during their class.
Senior William Coker said he talked about it in his AP Government class.
“We’re talking about civil rights and stuff right now and so this sort of tied into everything that’s been going on lately, to what we’re talking about,” said Coker.
Smith and other teachers discussed what happened into their lessons to give students a real-world example, and give guidance on how to appropriately express 1st Amendment rights.
“How this is good ways to express your 1st Amendment rights, the negative, bad ways to express them,” said Smith. “Because they really are going to be our political leaders and our voters and our activists of the future.”
Coker said it’s important that parents and teachers have an honest discussion with their kids about big events like this.
“I think it’s important for students to get an adult perspective on stuff because I feel like adults could have a big influence on some kids,” said Coker.
Smith said while discussing this type of event can be challenging, being open with students can help them learn from the discussion, and they can apply that lesson in the future.
“Teaching them how to have good, civil discussion and respecting other people’s opinions and just knowing that other people are going to have a different opinion to you, and sometimes, you have to accept that and just go on is very important for later on when they actually are allowed to vote and their political voice will matter even more,” said Smith.