Discussing politics or controversial social issues with students can be challenging. Educators want to engage students in these “hot button” topics but can find themselves walking a fine line, particularly when their school system opposes these types of conversations in the classroom.
A common fear among school districts is that their teaching staff can not be nonpartisan, especially if they are passionate about a specific issue. Or, they may “unintentionally” influence their students’ point of view, which inadvertently countermand their parent political or social ideology. As a result, schools have restricted or banned “political talks” in the classroom.
This is an unfortunate policy move.
Talking politics in the classroom ought to be encouraged. The classroom is an ideal environment for students to unpack political or social issues. Political discussions teach kids the process of deliberation. Students learn how to analyze competing viewpoints, to evaluate facts, and to develop their own opinion. It is a great way to get young people involve in our political system.
And, educators know how to be impartial and politically neutral in their classrooms. As learning professionals, teachers are trained to design and delivery content without advocating for a particular point of view. They know it’s their job to model the process of deliberation and to help students investigate all sides of an issue. As such, their political discussions genuinely encourage students to form and support their own views and to respect their peers’ political stance, even though; it may contradict their own convictions.
In spite of this, school districts are still hesitant to allow teachers to engage in political discussions with their students. In today’s highly polarized society, school districts believe these types of conversations are just too risky.
Which is too bad. This is just another lost opportunity to teach young people how to become active members of our participatory democracy.
- Ceballos v. Garcetti, 361 F.3d 1168, 1173 (9th Cir. 2004).
- The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education (Critical Social Thought)
- Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net