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With much anticipation leading up to the 2020 Presidential Election, Hun students and faculty are doing what they know best: turning real world experiences into lessons; and challenges into opportunities. As an educational institution, our faculty and staff are embracing this moment as an occasion to teach students how to examine, debate, and consider differing views before forming their own opinions. In short, they’re focused on teaching students how to think not what to think. This election has also provided a highly relevant opportunity to teach the value of difficult conversations and the growth that can come from them.
 
During a recent community assembly, Jon Brougham, head of school, spoke to students about the importance of free speech coupled with the boundaries of civil discourse. Immediately following which, Rory Hart, director of the John Gale Hun Civics Program, introduced The Hun School’s newly adopted Commitment to Civil Discourse. 
 
“Open dialogue and a willingness to hear others’ views are at the heart of the vigorous, student-centered learning that takes place at The Hun School of Princeton. Civil discourse that promotes legitimate intellectual and political speech is essential to empowering students to thrive in a diverse and ever-changing world and promoting resilient character. All community members are encouraged to expect disagreement and to understand that multiple viewpoints are foundational to the creative and collaborative process. In order to ensure an equitable, diverse, and inclusive learning community, however, community members and guests are discouraged from engaging in speech that is abusive, defamatory, dehumanizing, or harassing. By encouraging students to interact with a diversity of ideas and viewpoints through civil discourse, The Hun School of Princeton fosters the crucial development of empathy, perspective-taking, and critical thought.” 
 
At Hun, where Harkness discussions are commonplace, students are intentionally taught to think freely, engage respectfully in discussions with those of differing views, and create a productive space for difficult conversations. A presidential election therefore, provides endless opportunities for programming around the development of this important skill. In recent weeks, School leaders, advisors, and faculty have initiated coursework, advisory discussions, and auxiliary programs, on topics ranging from the history of American democracy and the Electoral College to modern government, politics, and civil discourse. 
 
Mr. Hart has taken his AP US Government and Politics classes on a thorough journey of analyzing electoral systems, voter behaviors, democratic outcomes, the polling process, as well as the key policy proposals for each candidate.
 
“As we head into Election Day, we will look at the current electoral map and evaluate the different paths to 270 electoral votes that each candidate has and how likely they might be,” Mr. Hart said. “We will also identify what signs or states to look for on election day to get a sense of where the outcome of the election might be headed. After [the election], we will debrief whatever results we might have and which results we might be anticipating in the days or weeks ahead.” 
 
Bob Sacco, US History teacher, is teaching  the Electoral College as well as key aspects of each candidate’s platform. He has also been careful to provide students the space to discuss the issues that they find most salient. In the week leading up to election day, he has created a light hearted contest to see which student most accurately predicts the final electoral tally for each candidate based on research. 
 
“Students will be using sites like 538, The Economist, The Cook Political Report and many more to help them determine their predictions,” Mr. Sacco said. “The goal for all of this is to get students fully acquainted with the key issues, develop an understanding of where each candidate stands and have them become fluent with regard to how the Electoral College works.” 
 
Through advisories, students are exploring podcasts, short films, and books including: The Great Hack (Netflix), All In: The Fight for Democracy (Amazon Prime), Playing Tight and Loose:NPR, Slay the Dragon (HULU), and this summer’s all-faculty read by Brene Brown: Braving the Wilderness. 
 
The Student Government is offering a mock Presidential Debate, several election discussions, and a watch party this week. And, in the realm of student care, Eva Ostrowsky, director of counseling, is offering a serenity space complete with aromatherapy, tea, snacks, yoga, coloring; gatherings free of election talk; and is working in general to promote general self-care for students and faculty. 

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