Social Studies

How Do You Keep Students From Becoming Cynical?

By Ross Brenneman — September 22, 2014 1 min read
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Do you trust government? Sure you do! The United States is a nice, ripe 225 years old, with only one civil war. Pretty hearty!

Do you trust the people that run the government? (Long silence.) OK, maybe you don’t. Only 14 percent of Americans approve of Congress, and President Barack Obama’s approval rating is currently at 42 percent.

With numbers like that, it could be easy to speculate that today’s students are surrounded by adults who are cynical about the government. To the extent that students absorb news about the government’s failings—about Congress not working (literally or figuratively), about police bias and misconduct, about bureaucratic “mistakes,” etc.—they might already be acquiring some of that cynicism themselves.

But can educators help temper that cynicism or channel kids’ skepticism into constructive action? Can a new generation change and improve the government, and become civically engaged in a positive manner? (Or, is cynicism a good thing?)

Preventing cynicism came up in the latest iteration of our ongoing #EWedchat series, on September 17, 2014. We discussed civics—it was Constitution Day, after all—and talked about getting students involved in school, what good citizenship looks like, and how it can be modeled.

A recap is below. And remember: Follow @EWedchat for updates and recaps on all of our Twitter chats, which are held on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.