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Schools should promote civil discourse about presidential election

As we trudge the remaining days of the presidential campaign, we may be missing out on an important teaching moment for our children.

Politics has, and will always be, a deeply polarizing topic. In the current presidential race, it seems especially so. For our youngest generation, however, we should seek to do better. And, doing better starts in the classroom.

In interviews at political rallies, supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump have described Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a murderer, criminal, baby-killer, liar and a litany of other incendiary words. Clinton supporters have a plethora of insults as descriptions for Trump, too — demagogue, sexual predator, misogynist and con artist.

Like sponges, children are perceptive. The presidential race is no exception.

So, when China Grove Middle School held a mock election and picked Trump, it came as no surprise. Southern Rowan is a deeply red section of the county. It would be shocking if southern Rowan didn’t overwhelmingly vote for Trump in November.

It’s also not surprising that a student accused the Clinton campaign of cheating and lying when quoted in a story published Sunday in the Salisbury Post. Kids pick up quickly on things said by others, especially when they’re deemed acceptable.

Vicious name-calling should not be acceptable.

Regardless of whether the terms are accurate, our public discourse about the election should seek to encourage participation in the electoral process. Name-calling on both sides harkens back to immature, school-age years, which is perhaps where we should focus our attention. After all, public schools serve as the institution we expect to educate our children.

During the presidential race, school systems should seek to encourage civil discourse about issues that are highly controversial outside of the classroom. A story in Sunday’s Salisbury Post showed how Gray Stone Day School discussed the presidential election in a civil manner.

A presidential election serves as a prime time to educate students about the political process. Students will undoubtedly echo the opinions of their parents and family members. Those opinions don’t need to change.

What should change is the manner in which we discuss why we dislike certain candidates. By allowing students to freely discuss their opinions, we can ensure civil discussion becomes a more common occurrernce in future elections.

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