- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - In Bob Lindsay’s classroom at Fisher High School, small photos of the first 43 U.S. presidents line one wall. A larger portrait of President Barack Obama takes up space on the wall next to a 49-star American flag.

On Friday, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president, a smaller portrait of Obama will join the other 43 and a large photo of Trump will take Obama’s former space.

“I like to have a large picture of the sitting president,” said Lindsay, who teaches U.S. history and U.S. government, among other classes, at Fisher.

Also in Lindsay’s classroom on Friday, students will be afforded the opportunity to witness Trump’s inauguration live on a television the teacher will have in his room.

They’ll watch the coverage leading up to the inauguration, and Lindsay is also opening up his classroom during Fisher’s lunch hour for any students interested in seeing the inauguration to come sit in and check it out.

“It’s important in our government and it’s important in history - the inauguration of a new president,” he said.

Matt Franks will be doing the same with his U.S. history and American government students at Tuscola High School.

Both teachers watched Obama’s 2008 inauguration with their students in the classroom, though Franks was teaching in Shelbyville at the time. The 2012 inauguration happened on a Sunday, when students weren’t in school.

“The Obama inauguration was obviously a lot more historic,” Franks said. “Trump’s is historic in some regards - mainly in you don’t know what he’s going to say - but it’s not as significant.”

For educational purposes, Lindsay and Franks are focusing on the transition of power within the U.S. government and how the whole process works.

“Most people in the world don’t get to see the peaceful transition of power and we have that here,” Lindsay said.

More than anything, the hope is that Friday’s events spark some discussion among the students. This past election cycle - which saw young people get more involved in politics than in the past, thanks in large part to social media - provided plenty of opportunities for discussion that both Franks and Lindsay took advantage of.

“We’ve developed a pretty open classroom here. Mine is based on discussion, and I want them to be comfortable saying things,” Lindsay said. “Eight years ago, we didn’t get a lot of discussion. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of it this next week because we’ve had a lot of discussion already.”

“In comparison to ‘12 and ‘08, our kids were a lot more involved discussing it in the classroom,” Franks said.

At Heritage High School in Broadlands, November’s election was a hot topic among students, though it led to some conflict, according to Superintendent Tom Davis. For that reason, Davis didn’t feel it would be beneficial to broadcast Friday’s inauguration to the entire school, though if individual teachers had any plans, it would be up to them to watch it.

“I just think the conversations have been hard this political season and having a school-wide event could invite a major issue,” Davis said while also acknowledging he doesn’t want to stick his head in the sand. “That’s just my feelings after 25 years in education.”

The volatile nature of today’s political climate is something Lindsay and Franks have touched on in their classrooms, and it’ll be part of the discussion on Friday as America waves goodbye to Obama and welcomes Trump to the White House.

Whether or not you love the president or agree with his policies, it’s important to Lindsay that his students understand the office is to be treated with respect.

“We can protest whatever that person is doing, but we have to do it with respect for the office because that’s kind of a cool place,” Lindsay said.

“There are people who have supported President Obama and there are people who have not supported President Obama, but it seems like the president, in more recent history, no matter what they do, somebody’s going to be after them. It’s taking that negative tone that I wish we could get away from.”

In Tuscola, which is largely right-leaning and conservative, Obama’s approval ratings aren’t especially high. But whether students identify as Republican or Democrat doesn’t matter to Franks.

“Being exposed to different ideas and having educated opinions is really a big thing I strive for in my classroom,” Franks said. “With the inauguration, you just want the basic understanding of the transition of power with the climate today. It’s a smooth transition of power and whatever your viewpoints are, you’ve got to embrace our president.”

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Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette, https://bit.ly/2jCazsj

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Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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