Becoming civic-minded with “America’s Government Teacher” Sharon McMahon
Oct 6, 2023, 7:00 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — Known as “America’s Government Teacher,” Sharon McMahon has made it her mission to fight misinformation by sharing facts and has since gained over one million followers on Instagram.
McMahon, a former high school government and law teacher, said she focuses on helping Americans learn how to think about things like civic issues and history, rather than telling them what to think.
“It is really difficult to make up an empty mind,” McMahon said. “You have no facts on the topic. You cannot make an educated opinion. So, understanding how the system works helps people feel like they can make … more educated choices for themselves and their family.”
She compares this to a person taking care of their house. She said an individual would need to know the right information to take care of their house. Once they have that information, it enables them to feel empowered that they are making the right decisions.
“It’s the same, kind of, idea. Once you have the right information, and by the right information, I mean facts and the principals of democracy, then you can feel empowered to become civically engaged and like you’re not going to fall in some kind of crazy social media trap,” McMahon said.
Having the correct facts, according to McMahon, keeps people from the embarrassment of reposting inaccurate media. And, it allows them to know how they can use their unique resources and perspectives to make a difference.
“America’s Government Teacher” on parents & teacher’s shared responsibility
Along with her Instagram account, McMahon has a podcast called “Here’s Where It Get’s Interesting.” In the podcast, she often looks from a framing that parents and teacher have a shared civic responsibility. In doing this, she attempts to bridge a divide between parents and teachers.
“I mean, education our children … it’s our shared responsibility,” McMahon said. “We can’t do it without each other. We need each other. And, we need each other to have healthy communities.”
Parents and teachers should work on the same team and the same goal of having “peaceful, prosperous, happy (and) well-adjusted” children and communities, McMahon said.
“Just thinking about it from that perspective instead of ‘it’s us against them’ I think makes such a huge difference when we are having these conversations,” she said.
McMahon hopes to inspire Utahns
On Oct. 10, McMahon will be in the Beehive State as part of the Utah Valley University Fall Civic Educators Conference. At this conference, McMahon will be featured as a keynote speaker.
“I’m very excited to meet so many Utah Governors,” she said. “They are some of the most enthusiastic, and kind, warm [and] genuine people in my community.”
With her speech, McMahon hopes to inspire people to work toward change.
“What we need is for you to do what you can where you are with the resources available to you,” she said. “If we all do that, we can make an enormous difference, not just in our city or state, but in the world. I really want people to leave with a sense of empowerment and a sense of hope that what they’re doing does matter … Sometimes it seems like it doesn’t. Sometimes you turn on C-SPAN or you turn on the nightly news and you’re like ‘what is going on here?'”
McMahon said each person doing something small can make a bigger difference than a couple people trying to do everything.
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