Summer Roundup: Back to School with the Supreme Court, the Midterms, and the Search of Mar-a-Lago

In communities across the country, teachers are welcoming students back to school as the summer draws to a close. The beginning of the school year is an exciting and important time for establishing good civic habits in students. To help facilitate dialogue among students and spark civil discussion in the classroom, we are reviewing several noteworthy summer 2022 news.

Roe v. Wade 2022 Overturned 

In late June, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, essentially overturning the precedent of Roe v. Wade (1973).1 Over the summer, Close Up students joined with our partners at A Starting Point to discuss the impact of the Dobbs decision with New York University law professor Melissa Murray. 

READ: Close Up-ASP Homeroom Resource: After Roe v. Wade

The policy landscape regarding reproductive rights is still shifting, as state legislatures, courts, doctors, and other institutions figure out their next steps. There are many policies being considered in states across the country, and there are new lawsuits emerging as well. Not all of these debates will be strictly about access to abortion. For example, there may be debates about supporting women during their pregnancies and supporting families after children are born. “[Women] are far less likely to have assistance for themselves and their children, and they are far less likely to have health care available to them when they are pregnant and for their children,” says Stuart Butler, a researcher with the Brookings Institution. “And that means that there’s going to be not only more hardship, but greater health problems and maternal deaths and so on … unless there is a fundamental change in political behavior in those states.”2 

The Midterm Election Primaries 

This year is a congressional election year, with the midterm elections approaching on November 8, 2022. Conventional wisdom suggests this will be a difficult year for Democrats in Congress. The president’s party often loses ground in midterm elections, and this pattern certainly held true in 2006, 2010, and 2018.3 In fact, the 2002 midterms—only a year after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—are the only midterms since 1946 in which the president’s party did not lose at least some ground in Congress.4

VIEW: The New York Times Primary Election Calendar 

Currently, Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, thanks to two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party—Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine)—and the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. In the House of Representatives, Democrats hold a slightly more substantial majority (220–211 with four vacant seats).5

Early in this election cycle, Republicans appeared poised to win control of both chambers of Congress.6 However, the outlook is no longer quite so clear. This is due in part to the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization discussed above, as most Americans (61 percent in a 2022 Pew Research Center poll) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.7 Another issue that seems to be moving somewhat in Democrats’ favor is the fact that gasoline prices are no longer surging, although prices at the pump and overall inflation do remain high.8

While this is a national picture, local social issues for discussion and individual candidates also matter. In recent weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) openly worried about the quality of candidates that won Republican Senate primaries.9

The FBI, the National Archives, and Donald Trump

In early August, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Agents removed several boxes of material from the property, marking the first time in U.S. history that a former president’s home was searched as part of a criminal investigation.10 The FBI, with President Trump’s search warrant, sought to find and secure potentially classified documents that were being held—possibly in violation of federal law—on his property.

The dispute centers around classified documents that some intelligence experts are concerned could put covert agents at risk.11 The National Archives and Records Administration had been involved in a protracted dispute with the former president as it attempted to recover documents. Beginning at least as early as May 2021, the National Archives was in communication with the former president’s legal team in an effort to recover those documents.12

It is unclear what will become of this investigation. There is a possibility that President Trump or others in his orbit will face criminal charges, but this is by no means guaranteed.13 There are other investigations underway relating to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, efforts to overturn election results in Georgia, and the Trump family’s businesses, among other things.14 Against this backdrop, President Trump is also weighing whether and when to announce a run for the presidency in 2024.15 The former president remains at the center of the Republican Party—candidates he has endorsed have won 95 percent of their primary races.16 

In the contentious atmosphere of recent U.S. politics, the combination of investigations and congressional and presidential campaigns could be volatile. 

Questions for Teachers

  1. What issues are your students most interested in discussing at the beginning of this school year? 
  2. What issues are you most eager to discuss? What are you apprehensive about discussing? 
  3. How are you planning to teach the 2022 election?  

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below.



Featured Image Credit: Justin Hicks/IPB News
[1] ScotusBlog:
[3] FiveThirtyEight:
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ballotpedia:,_2022
[6] CBS News:,_2022
[7] Pew Research:
[8] U.S. News & World Report:
[9] The Hill:
[10] ABC News-Chicago:
[11] CNN:
[12] ABC News-Chicago:
[13] USA Today:|8
[14] CNN:
[15] NPR:
[16] FiveThirtyEight:


Diversity, Discord & Democracy

We do not have to look far to find evidence of strong partisan hostility in the United States. People are ending long-term friendships, or even cutting off communication with family, over political discord.1 Partisan animosity—feelings of anger, fear, and distrust toward those with whom we disagree—has been steadily increasing for decades.2

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released new survey data that help to give a sense of the problems we face with diversity and democracy. “Perhaps the most striking change is the extent to which partisans view those in the opposing party as immoral,” wrote the report’s authors.3

As the chart below indicates, people believe that members of the opposite party are closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, unintelligent, and lazy. 

The fact that large majorities of members of both parties view members of the opposite party as closed-minded and dishonest means that we are lacking fertile ground for deliberative democracy and civil discourse. 

While schools alone cannot solve political discord, and schools certainly didn’t create these problems, schools remain a setting in which people from different backgrounds come together for significant stretches of time. Schools can make use of this diversity by facilitating social and political dialogue about pressing issues.4 

We encourage teachers to design high-quality political dialogue and deliberations that call on students to weigh evidence from multiple sources, view issues from multiple perspectives, and work collaboratively to solve problems. This blog and our many resources in the Current Issues Resource Library are designed to help teachers foster this kind of dialogue that tackles diversity and democracy.

Related Post: Deliberating About Pressing Issues

Such political dialogue can help students build knowledge and skills, but it is also important for students to reflect on their developing dispositions. There are many dispositions democratic citizens should develop, including: 

  • Public-Mindedness or a Concern for the Common Good: In addition to thinking about their own needs and desires, citizens must also consider the common good—the needs of others in society—when making decisions.5 
  • Humility and Open-Mindedness: Humility involves understanding that one’s knowledge and experiences are not the only knowledge, opinions, or experiences that matter in a decision-making context. Others’ experiences—some of which may be even more relevant to the issue at hand—need to be explored and considered. Sometimes, this means granting special privilege to groups and individuals whose experiences are particularly relevant.6 Open-mindedness refers both to the willingness to listen to the perspectives of others and the openness to being changed—or having one’s mind changed—through dialogue.7 
  • Empathy: Empathy is a broad term used often in educational literature. However, in the context of deliberation and deliberative democracy, it means something very specific. In this context, empathy “is not a feeling, but rather a process through which others’ emotional states or situations affect us.”8 A related term used by German social scientists is verstehen. This means to understand the meaning of an action from the point of view of the actor.9
  • Political Friendship: Aristotle wrote that “friendship seems to hold states together” and that “the special business of the political art is to produce friendship.”10 Danielle Allen describes a particular kind of friendship—political friendship—this way: “Friendship is not an emotion, but a practice: a set of hard-won, complicated habits used to bridge differences of personality, experience, and aspiration. Friendship is not easy, nor is democracy.”11 This includes thinking about the consequences of a decision for members of the group who may disagree with or be adversely affected by it.   

Fostering these traits in students is not easy. It requires repeated experiences with working together to solve common problems, critical self-reflection, and engaging imaginatively with the perspectives of others through film, literature, and dialogue.  

As always, we encourage you to join the discussion of political friendship, discord, diversity, and democracy with your comments or questions below.

Related Post: Anger, Fear, and Polarization


Featured Image Credit: Walt Handelsman, New Orleans Times-Picayune 
[1] NPR:; The Atlantic:
[2] Abramowitz, A. I., & Webster, S. “The Rise of Negative Partisanship and the Nationalization of U.S. Elections in the 21st Century.” Electoral Studies. 41. 12-22. 2016. Deichert, M. Partisan Cultural Stereotypes: The Effect of Everyday Partisan Associations on Social Life in the United States. Doctoral Dissertation, Vanderbilt University. 2019.
[3] Pew Research Center:
[4] Allen, Danielle. Talking to Strangers. University of Chicago Press. 2004. Parker, Walter C. Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life. Teachers College Press. 2003. Hess, Diana, and Paula McAvoy. The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education.
[5] Parker, Walter C. Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life. Teachers College Press. 2003.
[6] Narayan, Uma. “Working Together Across Difference: Some Considerations on Emotions and Political Practice.” Hypatia 3.2. 31-47. 1988.
[7] Landemore, Helene. “What Does it Mean to Take Diversity Seriously? On Open-Mindedness as a Civic Virtue.” Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy. 16(S). 795-805. 2018.
[8] Morrell, Michael. Empathy and Democracy: Feeling, Thinking, and Deliberation. Penn State Press. 2010.
[9] Hannon, Michael. “Empathetic Understanding and Deliberative Democracy.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 101.3. 591-611. 2020.
[10] Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle. Politics.
[11] Allen, Danielle. Talking to Strangers. University of Chicago Press. 2004.