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Professors share insight on eve of Jan. 6 anniversary

Political science instructors share perspective
Capitol Breach Records
Posted at 8:22 AM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 09:48:45-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the country prepares to mark one year since the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol, two political science professors in the Kansas City area shared their insight into how they're viewing last year's riot, and how to teach that moment in history moving forward.

"January 6th tells me that I need to talk more really about the state of democracy, especially as it relates to elections, and put that in a broader context," said Patrick Miller of the University of Kansas. "So when our parties lose elections, whether they were Democrats or Republicans, we tend to view that the election was unfair, it was stolen. We often want to see ourselves as the victim of the other side's wrongdoing or thievery."

He is teaching an elections and campaigns class in the Fall, with the midterm election on the horizon.

"Especially those of us who teach American politics is that I think there has been a tendency to take democracy maybe a little for granted," Miller said. "I think January 6th is forcing us to think about a little more, and really realize that democracy is not necessarily entirely secure in any country, America, or any other."

Miller also said teaching about the assault on the Capitol, as Congress prepared to certify President Joe Biden's electoral victory, is going to be a difficult question for primary educators as well.

"I would not be surprised if this became something that is just another one of those culture war points of view, if you will, about what can and cannot be discussed in public schools or how it should be discussed. We can censor topics, all we want, or teach them a certain way, all we want, but there's also a wealth of information out there that young people today, 10 years, 20 years, are going to encounter one way or another," he said.

Professor Rebecca Best of the University of Missouri-Kansas City said it is critical to not be complacent about what happened a year ago.

"I think the bigger danger with that is to then say American democracy is doing okay, and I don't need to worry about it, because again, I don't think that January 6th by itself is really the significant piece of this," she said. "I think it's the conditions that made January 6th possible... that really comes down to declining respect for democracy, declining respect for the Constitution, declining faith in elections."

Best said there are next steps to be made.

"Undoing the damage that made January 6th possible," she continued. "January 6th is evidence there is a real underlying problem and we have to figure out how to address that, right? How do we counter successfully attacks that continue to target, not just access to the polls and things like that through legal means, but to undermine the legitimacy of elections?"

NBC News will have special coverage of the Jan. 6 anniversary on Thursday, which can be viewed on KSHB 41.