What obligation do teachers have to be "fair" about politics?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Backroads, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Fanatic

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    Oct 26, 2018

    Hopefully I can post this without it becoming about the politics, but as a teacher it did get me thinking.

    https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/racis...-criticized-for-political-worksheet-1.4120976

    Gist is a quiz was given in social studies class with some questions that were were considered extreme and unfair political bipartisan. I don't want to talk about people's political views, but after seeing the quiz I tended to agree that they were incredibly unfair with little basis for fact. School's doing an investigation, but my question is if teachers and schools have a duty to be as fair and factual as possible when teaching political theory to kids.
     
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  3. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Oct 26, 2018

    Yes. When teaching about politics, when teaching about religion, when talking about history, and any of those social elements really, we must be completely unbiased with our teaching, makings sure that we focus solely on the facts. With history, we also have to make sure that we teach about all perspectives: with the pioneers/native americans study, it's important that students learn about all perspectives and we guide them to making their own judgments of those situations.

    Now of course, we want to help students develop the ability to have opinions and know how to back those opinions up, but as we do that, we should do so in as neutral of a way as possible.
     
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  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Virtuoso

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    Oct 26, 2018

    Don't we have a duty to be fair and as factual as possible when teaching anything to our kids? That would seem a reasonable course of action for teachers across the board. I teach evolution, and I present it with the facts that I have on hand, detailing how the theory of evolution has changed and become better substantiated over time. I simply deal in the facts that we know and that study has proven over the decades.

    I do address fake news in my classroom, and try to teach some of the warning signs that certain resources are not trustworthy or absolutely unbiased. I would think that discussing politics should at least make students aware of how fake news can be used to create bias and present false "facts." Students are never too young to learn that not everything they have seen on TV, or read somewhere should be unconditionally believed. Wise decisions are made based on a wide array of sources that use reputable facts and figures. I consider that to be one of my most valuable lessons - it leads children to question and seek answers that have proof to back them up, giving them the basis of fact on which they can build personal opinion.

    FWIW, I seldom share my opinions regarding politics in the classroom, because for some of my students, I am the closest thing they have to an authority figure in their lives. I consider that I serve my students best by teaching them how to tease out facts from opinion or unsubstantiated claims. This should be how we prepare them to make wise choices in their own lives.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
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  5. Aces

    Aces Comrade

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    You have to present it in a way that all of the facts of an argument and all of the sides can be seen. That way students can see all of the sides and can choose whichever side makes sense to them (in the case of politics/religion/etc).
     
  6. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Oct 26, 2018

    Saying something along the lines of "all A are B" usually is a gross generalization.

    Or a math proof. All squares ARE rectangles. :whistle:
     
  7. Guitart

    Guitart Rookie

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    I had to think back to HS.
    I had a fair teacher, whom without emotion, discussed the upcoming 1984 election and candidates with us. None of us cared but we sat there quietly and did as told. We held a mock election and votes were kept confidential. I voted for Gus Hall. He was a Communist. I did it because I thought his name was tough sounding and cool. BTW, good thing I did not vote at 18. I am sure I would have voted based on what my friends said or whoever seemed the "coolest". I was the tie breaker. So the classroom election ended up a tie between Reagan and Mondale(?). Everyone walked out of class mad and wanted to know who messed it up by voting for Gus. Hehehehehe.
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Oct 27, 2018

    I teach younger students, but I try to steer away from politics in any form. At my students' age, many of them will sneer at certain politicians' names, and I am not sure that they all know why they actually dislike that person in any specific way.

    If a teacher has an ability to step out of personal opinions on issues entirely, I think it could be good for students to hear about other political viewpoints. Many students grow up hearing biased information from family members about which political party is the best. If teachers could present unbiased information, maybe have students read background information on several candidates or bills, and then write an essay on which viewpoints they agree with, it could be a useful exercise. It might be helpful to remove the names of candidates and/or parties and only have students focus on the issues discussed. There are not a lot of forums for open discussion about politics, and I think it's important that students hear other viewpoints at some point in their schooling.

    So, short answer, yes, as teachers I do think we have an obligation to keep our personal viewpoints out of the classroom.
     
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  9. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Oct 27, 2018

    In elementary I don't think it's appropriate to share your own political viewpoints because the kids aren't old enough to really form their own opinions yet. I was teaching 3rd grade in the 2012 election and covered the election as part of our social studies lessons. My kids were way more interested in it than I would have thought. As the election got closer some would even ask if we could look at what the polls were saying. I wouldn't tell them who I was voting for, even though it was the same person most (all?) of them seem to want to win.

    Looking back at my own secondary experiences, most of my SS teachers were very open about their own political views. In middle school, the 7th grade teacher was liberal and the 8th grade teacher was conservative. They were always "fighting" (in a good natured way) about various things that were happening. We all found it highly entertaining. It was probably a good way to get us more interested in what was going on in the world!

    In HS all of my teachers were open about their views with the exception of my AP government teacher that I had senior year. He talked about both parties extensively and mentioned pros and cons with both, as well as flaws that he saw in both systems. We asked him constantly which party he belonged to and he always just said, "The correct one." At one point, he had us do a survey where he read where each party stood on various issues. Except he didn't say who was who and named them "1" and "2" and had us write down which number described our own beliefs best. Then after the survey he told us which number represented each party. I remember a lot of people being surprised at their own results!
     
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  10. geoteacher

    geoteacher Habitué

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    I teach social studies in middle school. While I don’t share my opinions with my students, I do go out of my way to expose students to different viewpoints. I want them to start thinking about what they believe
     
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  11. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Oct 28, 2018

    We have a district policy that we cannot engage in political activity on, campus, or off campus if we are doing official school business. That includes trying influence our students politically.

    I do encourage my seniors who can to vote, but never how to vote. We'll look up how to register, and I find neutral sources with information about candidates to help them be better informed. But I will not ever tell them who I voted for or who they should vote for.
     
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  12. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Oct 28, 2018

    In elementary school, every election year the students would ask whom I'm "rooting" for. I'd tell them that because I'm a teacher, I don't feel it's appropriate to tell whom I'm voting for. Later, I'd overhear the students discussing among themselves, trying to guess who it is. It was humorous hearing their reasoning behind their guesses.
     
  13. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    No political opinions at all from the teacher. Because it isn't about you.
     
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  14. Guitart

    Guitart Rookie

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    Oct 28, 2018

    As kids we do adopt, without question, some likes and dislikes from parents and those closest to us. My mom pressured me to register and vote for her party. At one point she asked, "You don't want your sick grandma to die, do you?" She demanded, "Then vote (fill in party)."
    In college I followed the crowd. We walked out of class one day. My friends were like, "C'mon dude let's go to the rally on the quad!" I gladly left class to join my friends to support whatever they were supporting. It was some loosely organized bullhorn event and some talk of hemp. Oh well.. I was standing side by side with my dorm brothers AND it got me out of class :)

    Then we get older and hopefully higher level, critical thinking develops.. and without question, you end up doing everything your wife tell you to do! lol
     
  15. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Fanatic

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    Oct 28, 2018

    I try to be as objective as possible as I teach mathematics and mathematics is independent of one’s belief systems or feelings. With that said, I use math to cast doubt on “studies” that are oftentimes quoted in the media. For instance, I’ve shown students abstracts that say things like the results are not statistically significant or the results are inconclusive or how the experiment did not have a control group or take into account confounding/lurking variables, etc. This starts a discussion about the difference between good data and bad data and how biases not accounted for can skew the results.

    I also will post quotes made by politicians like “wind farms slow down the wind” and use mathematical and scientific facts to show how what they said is demonstrably false. I especially do this in my AP Stats classes and the students learn to be skeptical and not accept everything that they read and hear at face value.
     
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  16. Backroads

    Backroads Fanatic

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    Oct 28, 2018

    In a conversation elsewhere about this, a guy mentioned a teacher he had in high school who seemed to play devil's advocate on both sides when teaching civics. To this day he thinks back and is completely stumped as to what the teacher's politics were and says the teacher was brilliant in how he did that.
     
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  17. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Critical thinking is so important in today's society because of the enormous amount of media to sort through and evaluate.
     
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  18. Lisabobisa

    Lisabobisa Companion

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    Oct 30, 2018

    I love this idea!
     
  19. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    I teach history. I never tell my students my own political views or what I specifically believe. I always present complex issues as some people believe this while others believe this. Its not my place to tell students what to believe.
     
  20. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    A few days ago, I read about kid rumors in the 70's in Richard Ratay's book, Don't Make Me Pull Over!, and an idea popped into my head about teaching critical thinking and discernment concerning colloquial information without even alluding to contemporary adult political situations.

    The book mentions two rumors, (that I remember from junior high/high school days). The first concerns the popular candy at that time, Pop Rocks. "Pop Rocks were just small chips of hard candy that had been carbonated and cooled to trap tiny bubbles of gas....The candy dissolved and the bubbles burst apart, causing a startling tingling sensation in your mouth." A rumor developed that "the child actor who portrayed the character Mikey in a popular TV ad campaign for Life ceral had died after washing down a pack of Pop Rocks with a bottle of Coke. Supposedly the combustible combination caused his stomach to explode." The rumor, of course, was untrue. The other rumor mentioned the popular Bubble Yum gum. "According to some, the reason for the gum's pliability was a secret ingredient--spider eggs!"

    I wasn't much of a gum chewer back then, but I do remember avoiding Pop Rocks after hearing about poor Mikey. Anyway, I got to thinking, there must be childhood rumors among 21st century kids, and perhaps this would provide a marvelous investigative project. Not just concerning commercial products, but thinking back to my childhood, I recall several ideas that were spread. "Step on a crack and you break your mother's back." When I was a teenager, we all heard a sonic boom that led to all kinds of speculation. And then, again when I was a teenager, we all thought that Alice Cooper was actually Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) from Leave It to Beaver. [Actually Ken Osmond became a police officer--Google it; that part's true].

    Discerning such information is similar to discerning news events in politics, and to a kid, such a rumor can equal the political fervor adults experience. Investigating whether a rumor or parts of a rumor are true, false, or even if it cannot be determined would be an excellent exercise in teaching critical thinking.

    Source: Ratay, Richard. Don’t Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip. N.Y.: Scribner, 2018. [A fun read, especially after arriving at chapter 3. A quick warning for classroom use, the book has a few scattered references to strong language and adult situations].
     
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  21. Guitart

    Guitart Rookie

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    Nov 5, 2018

    Rumors, gossip, fake news.. a good reason why we play the "Telephone Game" in my church religious ed class.

    I too remember those stories listed. Back then no way to fact check. You just told your parents and trusted their advice. I also remember teens saying that Rod Stewart had to have his stomach pumped for a reason I will not mention. You Google it and see what comes up.
    Ever hear the one that Marilyn Manson is actually the nerdy kid from "The Wonder Years" AND that Manson had his floating ribs surgically removed so he could pleasure himself? Wow. The stuff people make up.
     
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