Educators use government shutdown as teachable moment

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are headed into the weekend no closer to reaching an agreement to end the government shutdown.

What’s happening in Washington can be difficult for adults to understand but even more complicated for students to comprehend.

The last government shutdown was in 1995 — right around the time today’s high school seniors were born.

Some educators ask, what better way to learn how the government works than when it’s not working?

As the clock winds down to the weekend, Jon Levendoski’s government class at Aquinas High School is ending the school week talking about current events.

“We started talking about the shutdown on Monday because it was looming,” said Levendoski.

All this week the government shutdown has been one of the main topics of discussion.


“Our teacher, Mr. Levendoski, he’s kind of shifted our curriculum a little bit so we have a better understanding of what’s going on,” said Briar Ion, a senior in Levendoski’s class.

At the beginning of the week, Ion and many of his peers didn’t really understand how they’d be impacted by a government shutdown.

“(It’s) really confusing because it’s hard to get just why it’s so dysfunctional right now,” said Nicole Watunya, another senior in the class.

“I kind of thought it’d be the end all to everything,” said Ion.

“They kind of had this idea that everything was going to shut down — no police, no military, it was just going to be anarchy is kind of what they thought,” said Levendoski.

Levendoski said the answers to helping them understand what lead to the government shutdown aren’t found in the pages of a book, but rather by letting the students ask questions.

“You give them a little bit of information and you kind of let them tease out all the threads,” said Levendoski. “It’s a great teaching moment. It’s what’s happening right now, instead of just paging through the Constitution and saying this is how a budget happens.”

“He’s just teaching us the different branches of government and what they’re doing to help kind of get through it,” said Ion.

“People have really strong opinions on it, and no one wants to back down or compromise with it,” said Watunya.

While they may still not have all the answers, Levendoski said the students now have a better idea of how the political process works.

“They’re getting a better sense that it’s less severe than they had originally had thought, but still a really big deal,” said Levendoski.

Some teachers in the La Crescent school district have also incorporated the government shutdown into their curriculum this week.