As the election draws near, civics and government teachers walk a fine line

Joe Heim:

But as with everything else in 2020, normal has flown out the window. Facing the toxic maelstrom of the presidential election and many divisive state and local contests, teachers across the country find themselves rethinking how — or even whether — to provide lessons on America’s political selection process.

Some teachers say the races are so outside the bounds of a typical election that they are uncomfortable presenting them to their students as examples of how American democracy functions. Others worry about uttering the wrong word or being misinterpreted and facing backlash from administrators, parents or polarized community members. In a year already blasted by the coronavirus pandemic, job losses and widespread protests for racial justice, teaching about the bitter election battle can feel like a high-wire act over a sea of sharks.

In previous presidential election years, Jenifer Hitchcock would follow a teaching plan that was synchronous with the election and the news around it. 2020 has changed that. This year, she has focused on the process and the responsibilities of elected leaders rather than the often caustic showdowns between the backers of President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden.