Should teachers voice political opinions?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Weazy, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Weazy

    Weazy Comrade

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    Almost four years ago I was a student teacher and I was under a very outspoken co-operating teacher. She had very strong opinions about politics and didn't bother keeping her personal opinions from the students. If the news was on T.V. and piece came on about a politician she didn't like, she would make negative comments, or at least roll her eyes. If it was somebody she approved of, she would find something positive to say or say nothing at all. The same was true for her political beliefs.

    As a teacher, I know that situations arise and students will ask questions. I try to be as neutral as possible. I do not believe that it is their business (or their parents') what my political choices or beliefs are. I do teach the importance of researching all views so they can make an informed decision on their own, and not simply relying on the news or their parents'.

    Any other opinions on this topic? Especially since it is an election year? I don't know if elementary teachers have to deal with this issue very much, but middle and high school teachers face it more often. Maybe some of you don't mind voicing your stance or don't see anything wrong with it. :confused:
     
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  3. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Funny you wrote this today. I had a student ask me at lunch who I was voting for. I stopped and thought back to my high school social studies teacher/track coach. We were a small school, so I had him all four years. He never once told us which party he belonged to, but instead told us stories about all the different campaigns he had worked on (both sides) and all the presidential stories he knew of. It was a constant guessing game, but we never pestered him-it was more an internal guessing game. He passed away a few years ago, and I still don't know who he supported at the end. I have decided to be that kind of teacher. I told my student that it's a secret I get to keep, and he seemed satisfied. I have an Obama sticker on my car, so they wouldn't have to look too far to figure it out, but I certainly don't talk about it at school or with my students.

    A funny story-we were in a meeting today, and the owner mentioned that room 9 was a nice 'oasis' for us if were on prep-the only air conditioned room, and the only one with the internet. She mentioned that we could keep up with all the Republican National Convention news. Our principal shot back that she had programed all the computers to explode if they hit a Republican site, and we all had a good laugh. I think that will the extent of our political talk. It's just not a good idea for co-workers to talk about it, I don't think. My mom and I can't even talk about the election without it getting heated, and we're best friends.
     
  4. peggy27

    peggy27 Cohort

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    I am an elementary teacher and 4 years ago my fourth graders wanted to know who I was voting for. I never told them. We talked about both men and they did a mock vote. Of course they didn't vote for my choice but I didn't tell them that. I am very politically outspoken with others but not with my students. I like that you teach them about researching the candidates. My fourth graders said my parents are voting for this person and that's who I like.

    Keep up the good work in informing your students!
    I teach second this year, so we may vote Spongebob or Patrick for president. :)
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I think it's a teachers job to present all facets of the election process in as neutral a way as possible. I also think that's the teachers job as far as issues are concerned. They should present, with equal time and in a neutral tone, all sides of a given issue. The teachers I learned from the most were the ones, who as Jem described, never let on to their personal views.
     
  6. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I guess if asked, I would let them know who I'm voting for and possbily the issues that make me want to vote for that person.
     
  7. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I think it somewhat depends on the grade level. Teens are opinionated, and they like a good, heated discussion. Plus, I think having those conversations teaches them how to argue logically and fairly. They might not get that anywhere else (certainly not by watching any of the "news" shows).

    I bring up current events all of the time in class, and I generally tell them how I feel.

    As for the upcoming election, my students know that I'm planning on voting for Obama, BUT I also make it a point to bring up some areas in which I disagree with him and/or the official party platform. Our country is so polarized politically. You're either Republican or Democrat, and you're expected to blindly follow whichever side you choose. That's ridiculous. There's not a single person on this planet that I agree with 100%! I'm not a Bush supporter, but there were some decisions he made that I agreed with. The media and the talking heads leave no room for that kind of thinking, and I think that's the single most destructive thing that can happen to our democracy. :soapbox:

    I think we owe it to our students to show them how intelligent, thoughtful citizens make decisions.
     
  8. sundrop

    sundrop Cohort

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    I agree that teachers should not express their own views about political issues. I think our job is to teach children about issues and how to make informed decisions about them. During the last election some of the teachers that my 2 daughters had at a parochial school did a lot of preaching on certain issues which children of their ages should not have been exposed to.
     
  9. Weazy

    Weazy Comrade

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    I do my best to keep them guessing. Sometimes I play devil's avocate, and that REALLY confuses them. They are freshman and think they know just about everything. :lol: Actually, they catch on after awhile. "You're not going to tell us, are you?" I then have to give a mini-lesson on manners. I'm not surprised anymore at the number of kids who are not taught any manners at home. I teach in a very poor district. We are actually on 4th generation welfare. Not all are on welfare--but quite a few. Very sad. :( Anyway, I don't even teach social studies! :lol:
     
  10. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    My all time favorite teacher always took the opposing view of the "majority" in whatever we were discussing. Looking back, he was probably the most well informed, educated, thoughtful person I have ever known. He must have done an enormous amount of research on all sides of elections and social issues in order to be able to so passionately argue any side of any debate we had. This was my 12th grade govt/econ teacher, btw. I found out years later, when we were both adults, that he's a hard core democrat, but looking back, he was always arguing the republican position. Every student should be so lucky as to have a teacher like him.
     
  11. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    No.
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I tell NOBODY how I vote, including my husband. It's a secret ballot and I like maintaining that sanctity. Most people who listen to me for a while can take a good guess. Maintaining my stance of not discussing my vote has kept me out the fray when the students start arguing amongst themselves. I'd rather let them come to their own conclusions rather than basing them on mine.
     
  13. KatieC

    KatieC Rookie

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    I think it's important for students to form their own educated opinions. I too play Devil's Advocate with them to keep them guessing on my political views. They love it. I think the most important thing we can teach students is how to think for themselves.
     
  14. teach_each1

    teach_each1 Comrade

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    As just recently confirmed by a district e-mail we are not at liberty to discuss our political choices with students...and I agree with that. It is my right and duty as a teacher to effectively present both sides of any subject and let the student make their own educated opinions.
     
  15. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    I do not think that teachers should voice their political views. I would want my students to form their own views. I agree with KatieC in that aspect.
     
  16. mylonite

    mylonite Rookie

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    I've thought about this a lot recently. Some of my best teachers were very vocal about their stances on particular issues, and this sometimes bled over to particular candidates. Certainly, in college, I knew the political views of my professors*. As a science teacher, should I really just avoid the question when asked about, say, stem cell research? How about intelligent design? And, somewhat related, how do I handle a student asking me what church I attend?

    I don't think I can get away with ducking the questions that relate squarely to my subject, though I have absolutely no intention of answering religious questions. I look forward to seeing how you all deal with the situation.


    *I wasn't terribly close to one of my geology professors, I only took one class with her. It happened to be the fall of 2004. I arrived at the building that particular Wednesday morning at the same time as her. We both looked like hell. We both knew why. We sat despondently together as the rest of the class drug themselves in - all looking about as good as we felt. It was a bad day, but it was a nice bit of solidarity.
     
  17. Weazy

    Weazy Comrade

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    Love It!! As a parent, I do not want teachers pushing their personal political views on my children either. I want teachers to encourage them to do the research themselves, so they can make an educated decision.
     
  18. lilmisses1014

    lilmisses1014 Comrade

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    Absolutely not. I would never share my views with my students, nor would I talk about it with colleagues. I had a few professors in undergrad who shared their beliefs, but they didn't preach to us. In grad school, just about all of my professors frequently shared their views (some were "preachy" about it), which I thought was wrong. It's one thing to make a mention of it, but another to waste my time telling us about why you vote the way you do. Seriously, if I want to pay lots of money to listen to political rants, I would have gone for a master's in a political science program.

    Story time: My younger sister took AP English her senior year of high school and her teacher (who was a total moron and a perv who had no business working around teenagers-- especially girls... I'm so glad I never had him) gave them an assignment where they were to write about whether they were a Republican or a Democrat, and why. (Notice I wrote "AP English" and not "Government.") They were expected to do research as well. My sis came up to see me at my school so I could help her find materials at our library. Anyway, of the 10 students in the class, my sister and her friend were the only two who identified themselves with one of the parties. The rest of the class period, the teacher spent the entire time tearing their paper to shreds (literally and figuratively) and ridiculing them and our parents for their "stupid views." Then he proceeded to announce to everyone that my sister and her friend received a failing grade on the paper. My mother made a special trip to the school the following morning. Turns out, most of the parents called and complained about that assignment. The teacher didn't count the grades, but he sure treated my sister and her friend like crap the rest of the year.
     
  19. Carmen13

    Carmen13 Groupie

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    Teachers, in general, are very wise and know that they shouldn't vent their opinion on some subjects, but rather stimulate their students to the importance of discussing different views.
     
  20. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    It's kind of scary that it doesn't seem like such a bad ticket just now...
     
  21. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    In order to help children learn to express their opinions in a positive and non-offensive way, we as teachers have a RESPONSIBILITY to model such behaviour.

    I've always lived in small, conservative places. I make NO secret of the fact that I am a socialist, tree hugging hippy. I do voice my opinions in class and will never stop doing so. However, I do it in such a way that students know that they are FREE to disagree with me on ANY subject and that what I want from them is a well constructed journal entry (with a properly written paragraph) if they can do that, I will never punish them for disagreeing with me.

    Kids need to learn how to discuss issues with those who disagree with them in a positive and respectful manner. If we as teachers cannot model that behaviour how on earth do we expect them to learn how to do it? Particularily when many of them come from homes where issues are presented in an extremely black and white manner.

    As an example my town is getting a casino. My Grade 6/7's could all come up with a miriade of reasons why the casino was a bad idea. People would be poor. More people would become addicted to gambling. There would be more drunks stumbling around (although I had to laugh at that one! Drinks at casinos in my province are so expensive alcoholic don't tend to frequent the casinos!). They were going to be using too many spot lights.

    Not a single one of them could name a good thing about the casino. So I pointed out that the casino meant new jobs. That meant that more people would have money to spend at other businesses. When more people spend money, other people make money. One student then suggested that the casino might also mean more tourists, which is good for the economy. I was very proud of him for speaking out.

    The kids were all free to disagree with me that the casino was a good thing, but before I presented that side to them, none of them had even heard that the casino might be a good thing. Presenting both sides, and sharing my personal opinnion was in no way trying to change my students minds. I was just modeling a well thought out point of view, which is what I want my social studies students to be able to do.
     
  22. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    That's interesting. I have never revealed that information to my students.
     
  23. TemperanceFaith

    TemperanceFaith Comrade

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    I do not think teachers should voice their opinions on politics or other hot topic subjects such as gay rights and abortion.
    I think it is ok to have an unbiased discussion about these things as they pertain to an election and historically, but as a teacher we are there to teach even the things we might personally not agree with, not simply preach a one sided methodology.

    Of course, it does depend somewhat upon the age of the students. In one of my current political science classes, the professor has no problem with discussing where he stands on certain issues, but he also encourages others to do the same, and back up their opinions with facts. It's more to get a feel about the debate process. I admittedly handle myself better in that class than I do online on the political forum here. :eek:
     
  24. TemperanceFaith

    TemperanceFaith Comrade

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    I can tell you, probably with complete accuracy, the political leanings of every one of my professors past and present, and that is without them ever having to tell me what it is. :)

    I might be off by one or two, as some people can really mask themselves, but I doubt I would be off my much.
     
  25. mylonite

    mylonite Rookie

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    Really?! I'm honestly surprised - my business professors made no secret of their political leanings, and external politics resulted in internal politics more than I ever thought it proper to make obvious to students.

    My geology professors were just as candid, but I guess that could have been because we were a small, fairly close knit department. Lots of time in the field (long van trips, days without showers, sharing the shovel and roll of toilet paper) creates something of a bond even in those who attempt to maintain a professional distance. Most didn't really even bother, and we all enjoyed many a good debate around the campfire.
     
  26. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    As a mathematics professor those topics don't come up much :)
     
  27. mylonite

    mylonite Rookie

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    fair enough - I don't know a darn thing about the political views of my calc or stats professors. =)
     
  28. SkoolandPool

    SkoolandPool New Member

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    I feel like since students look up to teachers as knowledgeable sources, then they will typically side with their opinion on debatable topics. Therefore, I don't think teachers should voice their opinions on politics, because it will sway opinions.
     
  29. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I think most agree with this, at least on the pre-college level. But, in fact teachers don't mind swaying opinions generally. Consider the student who comes to you with a racist viewpoint. You feel no qualms, probably don't even consider the general principle when you try to persuade him or her that racism is wrong. It's not illegal to be a racist, and racism isn't necessarily more divisive than politicism (particularly McCain v. Obama). I'm not saying you shouldn't be expressing your views in the case of racism, but do think it would be a good idea to look at why you treat the situations differently.
     
  30. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Probably not unless it is an advanced HS class that likes to engage. Never lower. I will have my class vote with hands as it gets closer.
     
  31. Mrs. Toby

    Mrs. Toby Rookie

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    I'm teaching 8th grade U.S. History this year and since our governor is now the Republican VP candidate my students are very interested. I have been asked by my students who I'm voting for and have answered that I'm still undecieded, which I'm not. My students need to be taught how to research candidates and voting in general as I have been getting some interesting comments.

    When a student asked me who I am voting for and one student responded "She can't tell you or her vote wouldn't count!" Another said, "I'm not registering to vote because I don't want to have jury duty." This should be fun;)
     
  32. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    During the last presidential election, I taught at a very expensive privative school and most of the students like their parents were very conservative Republicans. The teachers for the most part were liberal and democrat. Some very "heated" discussions were taking place until the principal banned all political talk in the classroom unless it was a specific part of the lesson plan and it had been discussed in advance with her. Normally I would be against banning any discussion in the classroom but we had some teachers who were getting mean about their views with the students. Political discussions were also banned from the faculty lounge.
     
  33. Maryhf

    Maryhf Connoisseur

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    I think we should keep our opinions about political choices and other hot topics to ourselves. My story: As a 7th grader who had no interest in politics, I expressed an opinion in S.S. class (an opinion I had heard from my beloved father) and my teacher ridiculed me in front of the class. Not only did I lose interest in everything else he said that year, but I was humiliated and felt that my father was disrespected along the way. Much better in my opinion to stimulate a discussion going by playing the devil's advocate and taking all sides.
     
  34. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Maryhf - But if the teacher hadn't ridiculed, you and simply played the devil's advocate would you feel the same way? I mean I can take both sides of the issue, but I make no secret of the fact that I am pro-choice, I am anit-capital punishment, I am pro-environment and anti-big oil. I see no problem in being QUESTIONED by students and explaining my views and allowing them to disagree with me. I never ridicule them - I give them a scenario to think about.

    Of course, for the most part, I have taught in very conservative places and I am a socialist, so I usually don't have students who agree with me in class! :D
     

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