Lessons Learned from the 2020 Election

A little over a year ago, we were living our last week of pre-pandemic life without even knowing it. Civics classrooms were in the midst of processing the results of Super Tuesday and speculating who would come out on top in the contest for the Democratic nomination. Little did we know the roller-coaster ride we were in for in the race for the White House and control of Congress.

While the 2020 elections are in our rear-view mirror, there are lessons to be learned as we look to the future. This week, Dr. Shawn P. Healy, Senior Director of State Policy and Advocacy for iCivics returned to Illinois Civics to lead a webinar that reflected on the institutions that support elections, the current two-party system, and calls for reform regarding election security and access to the ballot. View a recording on the Illinois Civics Webinar Archive page.

The Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches share ways they are engaging their students to reflect on the 2020 election.

Tracy Freeman from Normal shares resources that “…seem to focus on voter suppression vs. election integrity”. A great introduction is the PBS lesson set around To vote or not to vote? This can be expanded into a multi-day unit. We also use the C3 Inquiry Am I Going to Vote?, however, “Am I going to vote?” as an essential question should be changed it to “Why should we (as teens) vote?”. This turns dialogue to the NEED to vote!

Dr. Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz from Charleston has several suggestions.

  • Resources from Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) on voting — including myths around voter fraud and voter suppression.
  • Share My Lesson features an interview with Carol Anderson and seems very relevant to work occurring in Georgia after the elections of Senators Ossoff and Warnock to change voter laws. (The current case, Brnovich v. DNC Consolidated, had oral arguments on March 2).
  • Questions about democracy — how democratic our democracy is in 2021 — would be good for reflection. Debates about the Senate’s power, Electoral College, and voting rights are politically fraught. This article from the UK might be useful, coming from an outside perspective.
  • The second set of critical questions might center on information: what does it mean that this far out we still hear talk of a stolen election? Figure out how to navigate through all the misinformation with this podcast from the News Literacy Project.

Logan Ridenour from Dupo shares, “I thought that this was an insightful article that discussed the rural-urban divide in the 2020 election. This could be used to dive into the question of representation and voice, especially when looking at the electoral results from Illinois. Students could use this information to hold a Socratic seminar and discuss their thoughts and reasons as to why this is occurring. Also, students could expand this into possible informed action.

What are you doing to engage your students in reflection on the 2020 election? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare all students for college, career, and civic life.