On February 14, 2018, 14 students and 3 teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were killed in one of the deadliest school shootings in world history. Students from around the world have been watching the news and joining the conversation, organizing walk-outs and marches to demand change in their own communities. Keeping up with the news is not just a passive activity; it influences students’ understanding of current events and can influence national opinion and policy.
This week, we celebrate Ganessa from Florida, Shane, Marina, and Ty from New Jersey, and Victoria, Darnell, Sharon, and Naomi from Illinois as PenPals of the Week. They recently completed World News, where they discussed news stories pertaining to the environment, technology, war, government, and poverty with other PenPals from around the world. They shared statistics and opinions about the Parkland shooting, government responses, and how the tragedy has fostered a wider debate around gun ownership.
Even though the “War and Conflict” lesson typically discusses international conflicts and civil wars, Victoria, Darnell, and Ty reflected on how American gun violence is getting just as much coverage lately.
“We're not even two full months into 2018, and there have already been at least eight school shootings in the US. February 14: Parkland, Florida. February 9: Nashville. February 5: Oxon Hill, Maryland. February 1: Los Angeles. January 31: Philadelphia. January 23: Benton, Kentucky. January 22: Italy, Texas. January 20: Winston Salem, North Carolina.”
The news is an important way to stay updated on the most pressing political issues. Sharon watched CNN’s Parkland town hall meeting and told her PenPals about how students in Parkland are interacting with government representatives.
“We watched the townhome meeting with the students and the parents and teachers from the school. They were asking the senator and congressmen how they could be reassured safety and to make sure that something like this never happens again, and why does the president and congress have so much security and protection, but the citizens that have a huge part in our government are only protected by dry wall.”
Naomi and Marina focused on how President Trump’s response to the event has received much backlash and left many Americans even more concerned about the future.
“Seated between teenage survivors of the Florida school shooting, President Trump said during a White House listening session that arming teachers and posting gun-toting veterans in schools could deter or stop school shooters. He said that Aaron Feis, a teacher who was killed during the Florida massacre, could have saved his life and 16 others if he was armed. Most have opposed that claim. A poll shows that 66% of people oppose arming teachers.”
Ganessa and Shane believe states can still implement positive change even if reform is slow on the national level.
“Florida Senator, Marco Rubio has announced his plan to prevent school shootings, including the new idea of a gun restraining order. He wants to introduce a legislation, which is already in affect in California and Oregon, that can take a person’s rights to own a gun away. He is also trying to join a group of bipartisan senators in the filing of the “Lie and Try” bill, which would make the FBI notify states when a prohibited person tries to buy a gun and fails the background check, so the person can be investigated and prosecuted. In addition to his new policy, he is also working on strengthening school security. This is a step in the right direction for preventing school shootings. I support stricter gun controls and better security like metal detectors and armed security guards, but I do not support teachers having to carry guns in schools. Let the teachers do their jobs, and let the security guards and the police do theirs.”
By studying the news with PenPals from around the world, students are able to think critically about current events that affect their community. PenPals share news stories with each other to examine the ways that pressing issues are reported around the world. World News teaches students the importance of reading the news, and the news stories that PenPals share with each other demonstrate what is most important and relevant to them at the moment.
Want your students to join in on big conversations around the world? Enroll your class in World News.