Students Reflect on Media Bias on Anniversary of January 6 Riots 

On January 6th last year, nearly 2,000 supporters of then-President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building, infuriated by the 2020 election, which he lost to Joe Biden. A joint session of Congress was inside the Capitol and certifying the election, and the protesters outside hoped to overturn that result.  

Photo “2021 Storming of the United States Capitol” by Tyler Merbler. CC

January 6th2020 may not be in our textbooks yet, but it has become a particularly important day in American history. On that day, the Northwood campus was quiet. Students were still at home following an extended winter break and were attending remote classes. Like so many others, the Northwood community learned about this tragic incident via social media.  

Ms. Noel Carmichael is Northwood Dean of Academic Affairs and co-teacher of integrated humanities teacher. Carmicheal marked the one-year anniversary by teaching her class about the January 6th incident and exploring various news sources reported the incident.  

“In our humanities class on January 6th we will be comparing and contrasting how different media sources are covering the event, including an analysis of what terminology is used by each source,” she said before the lesson.  

Carmichael was leading her ninth-grade integrated humanities class when the riots began January 6. “We were actually in class at the time it happened. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, I think. Our class was virtual, so I was at my kitchen table with all our students on the screen,” Carmichael said. When a student blurted out something about riots at the Capitol during class, she was suspicious. “Honestly, at first, I didn’t believe him. I thought he was exaggerating.”  

Dean of Academic Affairs Ms. Noel Carmichael (Photo: Mr. Michael Aldridge)

Carmichael saw the incident as a teachable moment. “We spent a lot of time the rest of that week trying to understand what exactly happened and how it had been able to happen. We also did an exercise looking at what have now become iconic pictures and writing our responses as a way of beginning to process the events.”  

Incorporating the event into her class wasn’t easy for Carmichael. “Honestly, in a classroom with a wide variety of opinions and political leanings and during a time of heightened emotion, it was difficult to feel like we could have productive conversation,” she said, “More time needed to pass before we could do that.”  

This year, on the anniversary of the riots, Carmichael open class by asking, “Who knows what happened on January 6th?” A majority of the class appeared confused until she mentioned what happened and sounds of recognition filled the room. Students then proceeded to talk about the riot: where they were when they learned about it, why they think it happened and more. 

Media bias was the focus of the lesson, the class learned about how different media sources portray different stories. Ms. Carmichael also discussed how the January 6th riot will be written in history and asked students “How would this history be written?”. Lots of students shared their beliefs and opinions, which were all listened to respectfully by the class.  

It was a great class taught by Ms Carmichael that helped her students think about January 6th and learn about media bias. 


Ed Note: the author is a student in Ms. Carmichael’s Integrated Humanities class described in this article. 


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