‘Students May Not Know Your Political View’

Good Christ. Forget Obama vs. McCain or even Bush vs. Kerry, this is the part of the story that stood out to me:

“As per the Code of Ethics and the above state School Board policy, students may not know your political view,” it continued. “This could be construed as using your position to influence others. It is my expectation, that in the future as you teach students to clarify and express their own political views, you will remain neutral.”

Because while I get that you wouldn’t want to turn every day of school into Political Debate Day, nor oppress your kids or silence them, I also hate this current thing of saying the very act of discussing your politics is somehow inappropriate. Exactly whose education does that serve?

Maybe I was just massively spoiled in my teachers; I had an algebra teacher who, realizing that most of us in the class were stupendously uninterested in math, would bring in the Chicago Tribune and read it to us at the start of session each day. During the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. And believe me, there was a range of opinion and never once did Mr. R shy away from either telling us what he thought or inviting us to intellectually kick his ass if we thought he was wrong. Since he thought Anita Hill was lying, there were plenty of students who did think he was wrong and around and around we went. I didn’t learn shit about algebra that year but I learned a lot about how to live in the world, and to be honest, this is why calculators were invented.

My best teachers taught that way: stand on your feet and use your mind. Defeat me in an argument. Just because I’m standing here with a ruler and you’re sitting there with a bookbag doesn’t mean you can’t be right and I can’t be wrong, but prove it.Think. It made a lot of us into people who didn’t take any shit from anybody, who wouldn’t let somebody get away with something just because he has a name tag on. I can see where that would seem like heresy to people invested in the idea of unearned authority, but it’s never steered me wrong yet.

And yes, I would feel this way if it was the day after 2004 and the teacher had shown up wearing a Bush t-shirt, if he invited discussion and welcomed debate. Not talking about our beliefs gets us nowhere. Dishonesty (and boy can kids ever pick up on false neutrality as a chickenass move, let me tell you) gets us nowhere. We have to have the modicum of respect for each other that says, “I can tell you what I believe without you having to feel threatened by it.” Simple expression of one’s views is not coercion.


8 thoughts on “‘Students May Not Know Your Political View’

  1. Calculators as a substitute for knowledge of -algebra-? I realize you were joking there, but I still was forced to reach for the smelling math salts.
    And yes, the best practice a teacher can encourage from his/her students is to get into the habit of thinking. Mr. R sounds pretty awesome.

  2. Article XIII, Section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution states “UNIFORM SYSTEM OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
    The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.”

    The Minnesota Constitution article establishing public schools says nothing about algebra. It does say a lot about politics, and the development of politically involved citizens.

  3. HI A,
    But if there is no critical thinking, then just announcing one’s position IS proseletizing.
    For your plan to work (and your algebra teacher’s plan), we would have to encourage the students to think for themselves and eschew rote facts.
    Not only that, but it is hard to assess critical thinking with the optiscan dot tests. You would have to do essay questions.

  4. I should have added. If the environment is right, the teacher introducing controversial information (like one’s party affiliation) is, in and of itself, a possible introduction to critical thinking.
    Not to mention, a model of citizenship.

  5. I had much fun senior year in ourrequired “Americanism v. Communism” course proving Mr. B. wrong after he instructed the class that Catholicism was the world’s largest religion (in terms of adherents). Christianity beats out Islam by a few hundred million, but Catholicism? No.

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