Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
With the 2019 Trump impeachment proceedings having been wrapped up in the House of Representatives and moving on to the Senate, let us continue with our discussion of effectively teaching the impeachment process in the social studies classroom. In a highly politically polarized environment, emotions are high as it relates to impeachment. As it stands, President Donald Trump is now the third president in United States history that has been impeached. In a highly divided country, one group argues that the proceedings were fair and impartial and the opposing side argues that the process was rushed and a complete sham.
An appropriate and effective lesson on this topic must be fair and balanced. It is not the job of social studies teachers to share their opinion and or nudge their students toward a particular political position. A good social studies classroom is one where the instructor can help students become informed citizens by providing them with the intellectual resources and materials to think for themselves. In the case of impeachment it is helpful for students to learn the process and then try to assess the situation on their own, with guidance from the teacher of course. The Choices Program (housed in Brown University’s history department) provides resources for teachers to teach their students about civics. In their article entitled The Impeachment Process and President Trump, they offer great resources for effective discussion of the impeachment process in the classroom. In a note to instructors the authors offer this advice:
“In the current political climate, discussing the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is likely to elicit strong responses from students who hold differing opinions. Before you begin this lesson, you may want to review our resource guide, Teaching about Controversial Issues: A Resource Guide. It is important to establish guidelines before beginning this lesson. You may also find it helpful to reach out to parents beforehand to let them know how you plan to approach this topic objectively and respectfully. Consider teaching this lesson over the course of two or more class periods. You might assign the introductory reading as homework the night before to leave more time for media source analysis in class, followed by a class discussion.”
The article allows students to do a robust lesson on the impeachment process that is somewhat unique. The lesson has several layers leading students in a balanced discussion of impeachment. It explores historical precedents for impeachment, reviews steps for source analysis, leads students in a pro-impeachment inquiry and then an anti-impeachment inquiry and lastly the lesson leads students in a discussion on media source analysis.
Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.