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Teachers Around The U.S. Are Using The Impeachment Inquiry As A Class Lesson


While many Americans are watching the impeachment hearings play out on television screens, some are learning about it in classrooms.


NPR asked teachers around the country what it's like to teach impeachment. For India Meissel in Suffolk, Va., it's not her first time. She taught through the Clinton hearings. But she says this time is different.

INDIA MEISSEL: My own generation was, you waited for the newspaper to come out, you know, see it on TV - the whole nine yards.

CORNISH: Meissel says, nowadays, students receive a lot more information. And they get it through social media, like Twitter.

SHAPIRO: Anton Schulzki also taught during the Clinton impeachment. And he says the news cycle these days makes it a challenge to keep up with current events.

ANTON SCHULZKI: I could teach something first period. And by the time I got to fifth period or seventh period, things will have changed dramatically.

CORNISH: Another challenge that comes with teaching impeachment - arguments. In fact, some teachers tried to avoid the topic because of how polarizing it can be. That's why the teachers that spoke to NPR say they're using it as an opportunity to teach civil discourse.

SHAPIRO: Both Schulzki and Meissel, who serve on the National Council For The Social Studies, give a lesson at the beginning of the school year on respectful discussion. Meissel says it's helped her Virginia students avoid arguments, even when they strongly disagree.

MEISSEL: And I've got some kids that are very opinionated that the president did no wrong. And I've got some kids that are very opinionated that - oh, my gosh - the faster we can get him out of office, the better off we're going to be.

SHAPIRO: In Provo, Utah, teacher Riley Hanni has a different problem.

RILEY HANNI: The main issue I have as they start to become an echo chamber.

CORNISH: Hanni says she makes sure that her eighth-graders look at current events like the impeachment from all sides before the end of the discussion. She says making her students feel like their voices matter is important to their civic engagement later on.

HANNI: They have opinions. And they're valid. And so I don't know. They're just cute little citizens waiting to come up.

SHAPIRO: Teachers told us their students often ask them to be part of a classroom discussion on impeachment. But many educators told us their opinions are not the ones that matter. Riley Hanni says she'll tell students what she thinks but only on the last day of school. Without fail, she says, they always forget.

(SOUNDBITE OF CALIFORNIA GRRRL'S "SHARK?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.