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'We need to talk about it' | Capitol riots spark conversations in classrooms

East Tennessee teachers used the Capitol riots in lessons on Thursday to examine the past, present and future of the United States.

TENNESSEE, USA — Teachers are using Wednesday's riots at the U.S. capitol in their lessons. They are viewing it as an opportunity to help students relate to the history of the United States.

After a day of riots, violence and history happening on live TV, civics teachers stepped into their classrooms ready to talk about it.

Seventh-grade history teacher Michael Hopper at Lake City Middle School said that even though he teaches World History, it's his responsibility to use what's happening around people as learning moments.

"When I walked in today, I kind of already knew that that the kids would probably ask some questions," Hopper said. "Anytime we can take the opportunity to teach, to make these things a teaching moment for our kids, that's what we should do."  

Hopper said it's important to him as an educator to explore the foundation of our nation and relate it to the struggles we are seeing today.  

Educators with older students, like Maryville High School AP Government teacher Mike Driver, also refuse to ignore the democratic disruption. It was a significant event in history.

"I told them today, they'll remember yesterday, just like I remember teaching on 9/11 in 2001 — in a classroom just like I was in with them, except not on Zoom," Driver said.

RELATED: Local lawmakers condemn rioters at the U.S. Capitol

He said teaching about what happened at the Capitol is all about locating and showing primary sources, discussing what could happen moving forward while also examining the history and basics of the U.S. Constitution.

"If you don't learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat those over again," Driver said.

He also said if his class can have these conversations while staying respectful, it's a success.

"I want to make sure that everybody's opinions are respected and talking about stuff, I think, sometimes can bring out people's passions. But they also have to be respectful of each other," Driver said.

Just three days into the new school semester, Driver thought tying in the breach at the Capitol paired nicely with what they already started to study — the underpinnings of the Constitution.

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