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BRI President Addresses Effects of Polarization On Children

by Bill of Rights Institute on

The polarization that is present in much of our national discourse doesn’t just affect adults. It is also having damaging consequences for children.

That was the message in a recent editorial from David Bobb, president and CEO of the Bill of Rights Institute.

Bobb pointed out that much of the current school year will occur during the lead-up to the next presidential election. As students become more polarized, civics and history teachers face “the challenge of helping students overcome fears of being shamed by classmates for expressing their feelings.”

“These fears, while disheartening, are not unfounded,” Bobb wrote in his editorial, which was syndicated nationwide. “They reflect a larger polarization problem in America that filtered down to our children.”

Bobb cited a 2022 survey in his editorial that stated polarization and political extremism were among the leading concerns for Americans. He also noted a study from Stanford University that found children can become politically polarized as early as age 11.

Bobb believes civics and history education can be powerful tools to combat polarization. He added teachers need support to provide a setting where students can feel free to think critically, explore different viewpoints, and engage in civil discourse.

“We must step outside our comfort zones and show young people we can engage civilly — in-person and online — with people with whom we disagree,” Bobb said. “Children need to understand that disagreement does not make neighbors or classmates enemies.”