Ever the philosopher on matters of the heart, life and death, good and evil, our favorite headmaster, Dumbledore, in Harry Potter, didn’t only dish out wisdom exclusively relevant to magic but also on matters of humanity and kindness.  In the Goblet of Fire, he tells us, “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”  To promote understanding, Unity Charter School is holding a mock debate and election that will challenge students to see each other’s perspectives. 

Middle school students in grades 6 through 8 are participating in the New Jersey Mock Election organized by the New Jersey Social Studies Supervisors Association (NJSSSA). Prior to voting, students were presented with an unbiased list of both candidates' backgrounds and platforms. The purpose of this was for them to be exposed to different viewpoints from both leading parties. Students had to compare and contrast their stances on key issues such as the pandemic response, racial justice, and climate change, to name a few. A big focus was dedicated to researching and understanding the issues and platform of both presidential candidates, not just their candidate of choice.

Students in 5th grade were busy learning about the upcoming election in a slightly different way.  After learning about the election process, students were tasked with researching three different debate topics:

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  • All people should be vegetarians.
  • Children under 14 should not be allowed on social media sites.
  • Video games are too violent and should be banned for people under 18.

To emphasize looking at a different perspective, students were put into debate teams, but for the side, they disagreed with the most.  While this was really challenging for some, the students have learned a lot from being in the "other side's shoes." The class plans to hold live debates leading up to the election and eventually host its own mock election incorporating these topics.

In 4th grade, students took time to learn and understand facts versus opinions.  They accomplished this while they researched child-friendly topics.  The students took time to learn about being pro or against zoos, homework, electronics for kids, and starting school early.  Finally, two groups looked into whether it was better to have live teachers or being taught by computers.  

“Walking in the shoes of others should provide you a glimpse into what they deal with and endure, but many times even as we walk in their shoes we continue to see life through our own lenses, but if we take to do it regularly, eventually our view can improve to where we can remove the lenses we have grown accustomed to using.  Preparing children for the real world means exposing them to ideas and concepts they wouldn’t ordinarily think of learning about on their own. As educators, we should always strive to teach our students compassion and kindness and that process begins by teaching them understanding,” said Executive Director, Connie Sanchez.

Unity Charter School is a tuition-free, public school in Morris Township that offers a unique approach to education for students from Kindergarten to 8th Grade throughout New Jersey.  Enrollment is open to all New Jersey residents. For enrollment information please see their website.