PBL and Impeachment: A Learning Experience
February 7, 2020
It may have escaped your notice, but recently the President of the United States was impeached in December when the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment. The Senate trial has dominated the news for quite some time now. Even with its conclusion, the impeachment will likely be a major talking point throughout the rest of 2020. Normally I don’t like introducing politics into our blog posts. Discussing politics can be uncomfortable, volatile, and confusing, especially when it’s paired with education. However, this event isn’t something most educators can just casually sweep under the rug.
Odds are your students have already been talking about the impeachment process and (depending on their families, backgrounds, and preferred news sources) see it as either a malevolent witch hunt or a valiant defense of democracy. Either way, tempers are bound to be short. While it’s tempting to try and ignore this embarrassing moment in our national history, a good teacher knows when to seize the moment. Students are going to be talking about this anyway, so why not make it a learning experience? How much do your students understand about impeachment anyway?
Ask Not What Your Classroom Can Do For You…
Here are just a few ways you can incorporate Donald Trump’s impeachment into your learning process:
- Checks & Balances: Perhaps the simplest approach is to introduce your students to checks and balances. Explore the three different branches of government, their functions, and how they were designed to ensure no political entity attained too much power. In the process, you can expand upon the impeachment process by pointing to current examples.
- Share & Compare: Throughout American history only four presidents have ever faced impeachment: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and Richard Nixon (though he resigned before being formally impeached). Split your classroom into four groups and assign each one a president. Have them research their men along with the circumstances and charges against them. Once completed, have your students present their findings to the class and discuss if they believe the president should have been removed from office.
- Mock Trial: One way to explore recent events is to hold a Senate trial of your own. Have your students divide the classroom in half with one side representing “Red” Senators and another representing “Blue” Senators. Have students volunteer for positions as lawyers, witnesses, or the Chief Justice, then present them with a case to litigate. You can either use one of the historical charges or create a new scenario of your own.
- Take A Stand: Have your students share their own thoughts, feelings, and observations about the impeachment by creating their own podcast. Using reason, evidence, and respectful discourse, have them “Take A Stand” on whether they believe the Senate acted responsibly. Use this opportunity to encourage civil debate and make sure they cite their sources!
The Only Thing to Fear…
We live in divisive times. It’s all too easy for us to grow jaded, or fall into apathy, or take an aggressive stance against those across the aisle. None of these are an option for the true educator. Teachers need to be there for our students, and part of that means helping them navigate these confusing times while preparing them for the world of tomorrow. Who knows what the new year will bring? Still, whether good or bad, let’s make these moments a learning experience for your students.