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Local educators tackle tough conversations on turmoil in Afghanistan

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Posted at 6:33 PM, Aug 27, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — As the turmoil continues in Afghanistan, local educators are tackling hard conversations in their classrooms to help students better understand the events unfolding.

"It kinda breaks my heart, I think it questions the whole reason why we were there. It's been over twenty years and all of the progress that we've made has gone down the drain," said Brandon Marquez, UCCS student.

"The whole thing in Afghanistan was inevitable like of course, everything was going to happen but it's just the way that we did it. The way that we drew ourselves out of Afghanistan was the problem. Instead of allowing our military to get out of first, we should have allowed Afghan citizens who helped us during this war," said Chauncey Johnson, UCCS student.

With events continuing to unfold, their professors are focusing on the hard topic.

"In my Intro to Global Politics class, we talked about what is happening in Afghanistan, interests, and interactions. We talked about not only them but neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran. Even the Palestinian War, we could relate some things to those as well," said Johnson.

UCCS professors helping to provide more clarity to students, especially on the extremist groups involved in the situation.

"A student was posting about the Taliban, and talking about how this idea of Islam as an inherently violent tradition. This student was critiquing that claim. I did add that what's been going on, especially with this horrible airport bombing that happened recently, that it was ISIS-K. That they claimed responsibility, and they are no fans of the Taliban let alone the American forces and other security forces around the world that have been in Afghanistan," said Patrick D'Silva, Visiting Instructor in the Philosophy Department, UCCS.

High School teachers also having to address concerns among their students.

"It's both easy and hard to address these issues. The easy part is that its current events and you can spend a few minutes basically what's going on in the news today. Some kids are aware of what's going on, some are not. The hard part is that there is not a whole bunch of room for the historical background because things are happening so quickly," said Anton Schulzki, Palmer High School Social Studies teacher and National Council for the Social Studies.

He says educators have been able to discuss it in several different contexts.

"Our government teacher ended up talking about it in terms of what are the congressional powers. Power to declare war versus presidential powers, and how the United States hasn't declared war formally in quite some time. Our AP Human and Geography teacher wound up talking about it in terms of the geography of Afghanistan and how it is a difficult country in terms of mountains and deserts. We had a US History teacher making connections in terms of the global context," said Schulzki.

In his social studies class, Schulzki discussed it in a view of historiography, how historians have looked at things.

"Some people have made the suggestion that Afghanistan is a place where empires go to die. So I've got my students talking about that and a little bit. Some recognized that Afghanistan has been a difficult place, to begin with for a long time, others questioned whether or not we should have been there after Bin Laden was brought to justice in 2011. It continues to be a topic of conversation and uncertainty," said Schulzki.

Some of his students have had questions over the number of casualties, how the decision was made by President Biden, and what's next for the country.

"No one knows what is going to happen next, and I think that is a great place to start for students. The uncertainty that we all are feeling and if my seventeen and eighteen-year-old students are feeling that uncertainty then adults are as well" said Schulzki. "The way I structured it in my class is that we gave them a couple of different articles for them to take a look at. They were basically just timelines of what had happened in Afghanistan over centuries worth of time. Giving them the opportunity to engage with that article and we got involved in a think, pair, share a situation where we pose the question is this the place empires go to die. We had short discussions based on the articles, and then the opportunity for personal opinions to roll in."

Educators providing more resources for students during a time of uncertainty.

"It's always important to know what's going on with other countries," said Johnson.

"It's important that we stay informed and avoid misinformation," said Marquez.