During a time where every news headline is more controversial than the last, students are being more politically active, and the classroom is more charged than ever the questions arises of what teachers roles are in this ever-evolving environment.
Although it is undeniable that teachers have political leanings like all people, their primary responsibility is to create a classroom environment in which students feel safe expressing their viewpoints and to teach skills of debate and thoughtful deliberation. For some students, school is a safe haven where they expect to feel safe and accepted while for others it’s a place to hear and consider different ideas from a variety of people. It is the responsibility of teachers to ensure their students can do both.
If teachers express their personal viewpoints during these charged arguments, they run the risk of either offending their students or making their students uncomfortable; both of which can damage the relationship between the students and teacher. In addition, it’s hard for students, or anyone, to freely and honestly express their viewpoint if they’re uncomfortable or they feel their superior shares a different viewpoint. If it is clear a teacher is a liberal from their political rantings or side comments, it would be harder for a student who is a conservative to feel comfortable expressing their viewpoints in class
School is one of the places some feel the luckiest to be in. It’s a place where we interact with, where we get to know, and where we learn from a variety of people from a multitude of backgrounds. The classroom is the stage for lively debate and our teachers should be the facilitators of our argument.
It is not the job of teachers to weigh in on these charged arguments but rather encourage their students to engage in respectful debate and thoughtful deliberation of the variety of viewpoints present in the classroom. When teachers provide a safe environment students are able to debate to their heart’s content and truly consider and maybe even understand the ideas of their peers.
If teachers risk endangering their classroom environment and hindering discussion by expressing their viewpoints should they be completely censored? Or is there a middle ground in which they can do both? A distinction about issues made in the book The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education by Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy can act as a roadmap for when teachers should and shouldn’t express their personal viewpoints.