Politics in the classroom

Discussion in 'General Education' started by jen12, May 5, 2010.

  1. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,010
    Likes Received:
    5

    May 5, 2010

    Do you ever give your own political opinions in the classroom?

    Since I mostly sub in elementary school, it's not too hard to avoid, but sometimes in Social Studies, I try to bring in a contemporary example if it matches up with what the kids are learning. The kids want to pipe up with their own opinons, which, at that age, is only what they hear from their parents.

    Older kids will also try to derail the discussion. On the one hand, they have a fascination with what adults think and do and they really are curious, but they're also trying to throw off the lesson and spend time on a discussion to eat up class time and avoid doing work. There's no way on Earth I'll get into a debate on politics with a middle-schooler.

    Do you let your political opinions out in class? When I was in HS, I had a Government teacher who basically taught the class from his own beliefs. I always thought that was wrong, and swore never to do it.
     
  2.  
  3. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Messages:
    612
    Likes Received:
    1

    May 5, 2010

    I will never let my beliefs be known in the classroom.

    To me, it is the more effective teacher who can objectively argue both sides of an argument and leave students and peers unclear on their own personal stance.

    To me, if you consistently portray your own views in the classroom, you stop teaching and start proselytizing.
     
  4. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    I never give my own political views in the classroom.

    When politics do come up for discussion, I might ask the students for their opinions, then offer counterarguments. I do this because most of their opinions are still based on emotions and parental influence rather than actual knowledge of the candidates policies. So I try to make them think critically and defend their views from a logical perspective rather than an emotional one.

    You don't like Obama? Fair enough. WHY don't you like him? What do you specifically disagree with him on? If you don't like the health care bill, what is wrong with it and what do you think would be a better alternative?

    I use the same approach if they don't like Bush, Clinton, Ted Kennedy or any other politician. Tell me WHY you don't like him or her and justify you answer on something other than emotion.

    I also insist in ANY discussion that respect be shown for ALL views, whether you agree with them or not.
     
  5. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,070
    Likes Received:
    233

    May 5, 2010

    Out of curiosity, how far would you take that? All the politicians you mention are rather similar. Suppose someone came in spouting neo-Nazi or fascist ideology? Would you still remain cautiously neutral?
     
  6. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    Hmmmm, good point.

    I would tell the student that, in MY classroom, I expect him/her to respect the other students and opinions in the room, just as (s)he expects others to respect his/her views.

    That doesn't mean (s)he has to like the other student, but I won't tolerate anyone openly expressing hatred for others. (S)he has a right to dislike others for whatever reason, but I expect them to exercise some self-control and be civil towards the others in the discussion.

    So, yeah, I guess I would still remain cautiously neutral (although it would be very difficult).
     
  7. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Messages:
    4,395
    Likes Received:
    7

    May 5, 2010

    Never. I am the lone blue representative in a sea of red. It's not a good idea.
     
  8. JoshCHT

    JoshCHT Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    Being a hopefully-soon-to-be math teacher, I don't expect to express overt political views in the classroom.

    Politics should be discussed in history courses though.

    I think when discussing political views as long as the teacher is fair in acknowledging and representing both sides then its probably ok for them to share their own views. There is a difference between sharing and pushing.

    And of course political discussions should be academic and historical. Crazed conspiracy theories like Obama is the Kenyan Muslim Anti-Christ or Bush blew up the towers has no place in the classroom except to debunk.

    I don't view banning hate language from the classroom to be political though. I will not tolerate racist, anti-Semitic, or homophobic comments in my classroom. It will be a part of my policy against bullying and harassment.
     
  9. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2009
    Messages:
    422
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    I observed a history/civics teacher who is also an elected local public official (city council member) and asked about how she dealt with any inquiries about her political views in the classroom. She said that as an elected official, her political stances are public record, but she does tell students that it is acceptable to have differences in political opinion and be friendly with each other. She pointed to pictures of friends of hers who were of different political parties and got along great. Important thing is that "you can disagree without being disagreeable."
     
  10. hac711

    hac711 Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2010
    Messages:
    213
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    I don't give my political views, but I would have to say the way I teach is towards the left (helping others, tolerance(sp?) for other people's choices...etc) but I keep opinions to myself. I also tell my kids I will love to hear their opinions on politics when they are 18 and old enough to vote. Until then, I don't need to hear their parents opinions.
     
  11. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Messages:
    3,231
    Likes Received:
    66

    May 5, 2010

    So suddenly at the age of 18, they are able to magically think for themselves?
     
  12. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Messages:
    612
    Likes Received:
    1

    May 5, 2010

    I don't think it's necessarily a sin for students to voice the political views of their family.

    Much like the families who teach their children math, science, English, and so on, teaching political views is part of the cognitive process.

    Those viewpoints will eventually be challenged and students will "find themselves" and either agree with their parents or disagree.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you have differing political viewpoints as your parents. So it's at least possible.
     
  13. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,070
    Likes Received:
    233

    May 5, 2010

    Cerek, I think that's a good stance. At the same time, I don't know if I'd blame (I might even support) a teacher who unashamedly taught certain American values.

    "I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    I believe it can be argued that is is legitimate to teach these values (which are at their root political). These values are common to many countries, including (see below) largely to Japan, but not to all countries.

    This question sort of stuck in my mind because recently my son noted an assignment given to the fifth graders -- write three things that are good about America. Since my son has dual citizenship and at 18 would have to choose between Japan and the US, this would be an intensely political assignment for him. I don't consider the assignment illegitimate, but I'm sure the teachers would be expressing a lot of views that are political in nature without necessarily realizing it.
     
  14. hac711

    hac711 Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2010
    Messages:
    213
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    So suddenly at the age of 18, they are able to magically think for themselves?

    I didn't say that. I just don't want to hear a 7 year old's political view. We have more than enough stuff to discuss. I don't care to hear their parents opinions on politics.
     
  15. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Messages:
    3,231
    Likes Received:
    66

    May 5, 2010

    Well, perhaps in the case of a seven year-old I would agree to steer the conversation away from politics... however, in Social Studies classes in middle school and high school, I think it's important to have these discussions with students who are not yet 18 so that they can develop their own critical thinking skills.
     
  16. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Messages:
    2,841
    Likes Received:
    319

    May 5, 2010

    You forgot "under God" haha! YOU ARE NOT A PATRIOT. :naughty: :p
     
  17. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,070
    Likes Received:
    233

    May 5, 2010

    Haha! I didn't forget.:p

    But thank you for illustrating a point I have sometimes tried to make in the past.:)
     
  18. athenssoest

    athenssoest Rookie

    Joined:
    May 3, 2010
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    when I was in high school, our teachers never came out and said their political views, but they normally hinted it by mocking a viewpoint or going into length to describe why a policy wouldn't work. I did have one lit teacher that sat the class in a circle and had everyone go around and say: 1) their religious views 2) how their views different from their parents, and why. I thought that was pushing the line, because we had people of various religions in the class.
     
  19. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    May 5, 2010

    As a sub, the OP would be well-advised to STICK to the LESSON PLAN...it's not your place to pontificate.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    May 5, 2010

    It never comes up as part of a math lesson.

    But any time I've been asked, I respond along the lines of "Do you think I'm crazy enough to start a debate like that when we have ___ still to get through????"

    My political beliefs have no place in my classroom. There's most certainly enough syllabus to teach that we don't need to spend time on my own opinons.
     
  21. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,010
    Likes Received:
    5

    May 5, 2010

    The point of my original post is that I don't think it's any teacher's place to pontificate.....but, thanks for clarifying the whole "stick to the lesson plan" thing...can you please let the teachers I sub for know to actually leave me a lesson plan?
     
  22. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,010
    Likes Received:
    5

    May 5, 2010

    Hahah...I like this response.
     
  23. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 7, 2010

    It's entirely possible to discuss politics without pontification. It is also possible for a sub to allow a brief discussion on politics and still accomplish everything on the lesson plan. I did both recently when a student in a biology class told us she had met Barack Obama in person just a few days before.

    I think discussions on political topics can be very valuable. It forces students to examine WHY they hold the beliefs/opinions they have and where they come from. Is it based on the students' own experience and research, or do they just echo the beliefs of their parents.

    Personally, I think middle school is a perfect time for students to START exploring their personal beliefs and opinions on different subjects and discovering where these views truly come from. It's a natural extension of the other transitions they are going through at this time.

    High school students should be challenged to assess political beliefs and issues even more critically, perhaps by having to write a short essay defending an issue that goes against their personal beliefs. Such an exercise can let children see for themselves that there are usually some good points to be found on every side of a given argument.

    As long as students understand they are to be respectful of others and opposing views, discussions of politics or other "hot topics" can be extremely valuable for students in middle and high school.
     
  24. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    May 7, 2010

    I maintain that it is not a sub's job to decide whether a political discussion is valuable or not. Follow the lesson plan. And yes I leave one...one that says turn to this page and say this...hand out this paper and direct students to....Ask these questions...I know my class, I know what is appropriate discussion. Follow the plan that I leave. Period. Or you may not be back.
     
  25. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 8, 2010

    I did follow the lesson plan. The students did complete the assigned work left by the teacher. We also managed to have a brief discussion about Obama and the office of President. And I have been asked back to sub the same class.

    I'm not just a sub, I'm an educator. :)
     
  26. newbie1234

    newbie1234 Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 8, 2010

    I teach Government, and I don't tell my students what party I belong to. My students have a great time trying to figure out what my beliefs are, though. However, there's a difference between political opinion and presenting my well-studied interpretation of information and data. I wouldn't be able to teach the class if I couldn't show the class a chart and explain why the data is what it is, or help them understand political cartoons.
     
  27. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,010
    Likes Received:
    5

    May 8, 2010

    Thank you, Cerek. Too often, classroom teachers forget that we are as competent as they are.
     
  28. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,959
    Likes Received:
    2,116

    May 8, 2010

    No doubt that some subs are excellent, qualified and competent...However, I am ultimately responsible for my kids- not a sub. I would hate to come back to a classroom where a sub's decisions cause repercussions for me to clean up....political discussions can go that way.
     
  29. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    1,486
    Likes Received:
    66

    May 8, 2010

    There is quite a gray area isn't there though? I mean, of course you wouldn't necessarily want to push or impose your values (be it religious, political, whatever) on to your students.

    But then again, some might argue that the very curriculum that you are teaching is an endoctrination (i.e. propaganda, spreading of), of sorts... depending on your P.o.V.
     
  30. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    2,974
    Likes Received:
    1

    May 9, 2010

    I share my beliefs with my kids. They know that my beliefs aren't necessarily right; but they are mine. Then again I am the co-advisor of the Young Democrats :)
     
  31. newbie1234

    newbie1234 Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    I don't think that learning how government works is a form of indoctrination, no. There isn't really a gray area where facts and well-researched trends are concerned. If I were teaching U.S. History, I wouldn't teach Ann Coulter's version of McCarthyism and the Venona cables just because she's a popular pundit; I would teach the facts that historical evidence supports. Similarly, I'm not going to teach right or left-wing propaganda in a misguided effort to teach both sides of an issue, event or trend.
     
  32. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

    Joined:
    May 28, 2006
    Messages:
    1,265
    Likes Received:
    11

    May 9, 2010

    :thumb: I have done the same if one of my kids asks me about mine.
     
  33. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

    Joined:
    May 28, 2006
    Messages:
    1,265
    Likes Received:
    11

    May 9, 2010

    I would also agree that teaching how government works is not indoctrination.
     
  34. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2007
    Messages:
    2,233
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    I steer away from any discussion about democrats and republicans, health care and certain other hot-button topics, but I have shared my view on other topics. A few have been what it means to be an American, my view on tolerance of immigrates, what I think are civil rights abuses, what some locals say about property tax funding for school budgets and my opinion of it, why I think the electoral college is a dead idea, and lately, the feasibility of off-shore oil drilling has come up. Sometimes they get a good persuasive essay out of it, and sometimes just a good debate or an awareness of current issues.
     
  35. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    May 9, 2010

    As harsh as this sounds, you would NOT have been invited back to my classroom. Its not your job to introduce potentially controversial subjects in a classroom that, in the end, you have no repsonsibility for. If you are, in fact, a professional educator, then you find and appropriate use of the extra time that stays clear of any potential controversy.

    You never know whats going to set a parent off, and, as a sub, you don't even know my students and their families at all. That kind of judgement call is not yours to make in somebody else's classroom. In the end, it is ME who has to clean up the mess, not you, and if I'm going to be cleaning up messes of this nature, then I'd prefer that I be the one that made it.
     
  36. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    I understand. Obviously the teacher I actually subbed for feels differently. Perhaps because it didn't "stir up" the type of mess or controversy you and czacza keep envisioning.

    I am a professional educator and as such, I felt it was appropriate to allow a student to expand on her personal meeting with our current President. When she did, another student commented he didn't like Obama, so I took 5 minutes of class time to let other students voice their opinion - with the understanding that all views would be respected.

    Maybe the issue here is that you and czacza feel I walked into a room cold and just decided to drop the political bomb on a whim. That wasn't the case. I've subbed at this school several times and I did know most of the students in the room from previous visits, so I had a good idea of their personalities already.

    I didn't spend a lot of time on the discussion. As I said, it lasted maybe 5-6 minutes, then the students continued working on the chapter assignment the teacher had left and all of them finished it before the end of the period. :cool:
     
  37. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    6

    May 9, 2010

    Yet, I still think you overstepped your bounds. It doesn't matter. You're a sub, and as a professional educator should know your boundries. A professional substitute knows his/her job. Your job is to follow lesson plans. A professional sub knows what topics are better left to the person who deals with the class every day, and can competently deflect the attempt to sidetrack themselves, and steer the class back to the plans the teacher left. I would expect any sub to respond to that type of question with something to the effect of "this is not the time or the place for that discussion". Anything else just simply isn't professional.

    As you say, this one teacher didn't mind, but I'd be very careful about assuming that's the norm. I don't know any others who would feel any differently than I do, and I know a lot of teachers. Actually, I've seen subs blacklisted from entire schools for situations exactly as you've described. So, take my thoughts as you will, but remember, one situation does not make a pattern.
     
  38. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    I appreciate your thoughts and concerns.

    Your advice about not considering one incident to be the norm goes both ways. I did this one time in a class full of students I had taught before, but that doesn't mean it's the "norm" for me. There are plenty of classrooms in which I would never discuss this topic.

    In this case, I recognized the opportunity for a teachable moment and took advantage of it. I also followed the lesson plan left by the teacher and made sure the students completed all the assigned work before the end of class.
     
  39. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    May 10, 2010

    My students don't know my political views. My cooperating teacher has stated many times which party she belongs too. We have discussions sometimes, but we preface it with respecting others' views and keeping our specific views out of it. Instead it's more of a, "Have you thought about it from this angle?". And we teach history so it is expected.
     
  40. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    1,942
    Likes Received:
    175

    May 10, 2010

    :up:
    And your "place" is in the classroom it sounds like to me. I think listening to kids (all ages) is good for all of us and pretending that
    Obama, the presidency and/or policies do not exist is sort of silly. I think I learn more listening to kids than they learn from me some days. Today I was just chatting with two kindergarten students, one is Greek and the other Mexican. I love it. obtw, I Never tell kids how I vote or
    my political bent but I have to admit this. Earlier in the year one of my little K girls said her mom "voted for the black guy" and I smiled and gave her a thumbs up. She was so funny and sweet about it.
     
  41. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
    Messages:
    1,486
    Likes Received:
    66

    May 11, 2010

    Well certainly, something like the workings of gov't are clear-cut. But when you are talking about U.S. History, one could argue that you are teaching a version of history... and that being the case, you are (and perhaps should) expose your students to your knowledge.

    BTW, I'm not calling you a propagandist or anything; just stating a point that I do feel applies.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 163 (members: 1, guests: 148, robots: 14)
test