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

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

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    Messages:
    3,288
    Likes Received:
    1,638

    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.
     
    greendream likes this.
  2.  
  3. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    1,172

    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.
     
    stephenpe, Obadiah and Upsadaisy like this.
  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2014
    Messages:
    9,705
    Likes Received:
    2,403

    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
    Upsadaisy and Backroads like this.
  5. Aces

    Aces Habitué

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2018
    Messages:
    860
    Likes Received:
    482

    Oct 26, 2018

    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

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,318
    Likes Received:
    1,440

    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 Companion

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2014
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    37

    Oct 26, 2018

    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

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2013
    Messages:
    3,837
    Likes Received:
    1,446

    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.
     
    Guitart and Upsadaisy like this.
  9. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    Messages:
    5,862
    Likes Received:
    734

    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!
     
    otterpop likes this.
  10. geoteacher

    geoteacher Habitué

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    981
    Likes Received:
    201

    Oct 27, 2018

    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
     
    Upsadaisy likes this.
  11. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    3,246
    Likes Received:
    450

    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.
     
    greendream likes this.
  12. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,331
    Likes Received:
    808

    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

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2002
    Messages:
    18,935
    Likes Received:
    676

    Oct 28, 2018

    No political opinions at all from the teacher. Because it isn't about you.
     
    greendream and Obadiah like this.
  14. Guitart

    Guitart Companion

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2014
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    37

    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 Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2014
    Messages:
    3,913
    Likes Received:
    1,104

    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.
     
    Obadiah and Backroads like this.
  16. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    Messages:
    3,288
    Likes Received:
    1,638

    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.
     
    a2z, Obadiah and futuremathsprof like this.
  17. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,331
    Likes Received:
    808

    Oct 29, 2018

    Critical thinking is so important in today's society because of the enormous amount of media to sort through and evaluate.
     
    futuremathsprof, Aces and a2z like this.
  18. Lisabobisa

    Lisabobisa Companion

    Joined:
    May 6, 2011
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    65

    Oct 30, 2018

    I love this idea!
     
  19. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

    Joined:
    May 19, 2012
    Messages:
    558
    Likes Received:
    49

    Nov 2, 2018

    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

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,331
    Likes Received:
    808

    Nov 5, 2018

    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].
     
    otterpop likes this.
  21. Guitart

    Guitart Companion

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2014
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    37

    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.
     
    Obadiah likes this.
  22. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2016
    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    164

    Nov 5, 2018

    This was my high school history teacher!
     
    Obadiah likes this.
  23. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,331
    Likes Received:
    808

    Nov 21, 2018

    Tonight I listened to Radiolab's podcast from Oct. 30, 2018, War of the Worlds. This production's documentary went into much detail on how people were misled by Orson Welles's broadcast (80 years ago) and similar media presentations afterwards. The documentary also explains how the brain makes connections among current information and previous media information, something I've never really considered; in the podcast's example, the Hindenburg disaster and Hitler kind of ripened listeners to believe that something disastrous could truly be occurring in New Jersey and elsewhere. (Some even figured that the supposed Martians were actually some type of weaponry from Germany). At the end of the documentary, a hodgepodge of examples from current news stories explains how people are intrigued by a media's presentation and then led along with the story. My thoughts were, for high school/college students, this would be an excellent teaching resource on discerning media, including, of course, political news. My only concern was the mildly strong language and that the actual broadcast of the Hindenburg disaster which might be difficult for sensitive students.

    Rather than focusing on specific politics, the discussion could focus more on what can psychologically or socially effect our discernment of media. Older persons might be able to share their experience of October 1938. My mother was only 5 at the time, but she recalls sitting at a meeting in her church and someone came into the service to announce the Martian invasion. This caused an elderly lady in the church to have a heart attack. On the fun side, perhaps an episode of the original Flintstones could also be shown which parodied War of the Worlds with an "invasion" of a new singing group, the Way Outs.
     
  24. akconnel

    akconnel Rookie

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2006
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    18

    Nov 23, 2018

    I think it is incredibly unprofessional for any teacher to share his or her personal political views. A lot of teachers I have worked with did so and I always lost respect for them.
     
    ready2learn likes this.
  25. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    2,000
    Likes Received:
    159

    Nov 26, 2018

    I don't know if I agree that teachers have an obligation to teach "all sides" or "all perspectives". There are some perspectives that don't really represent legitimate argument and fall instead into conspiracy theory or faith-based argument.
     
    Obadiah and futuremathsprof like this.
  26. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    Messages:
    3,288
    Likes Received:
    1,638

    Nov 26, 2018

    I don't even know how one would even begin to attempt to teach "all sides"... there's a reason political/religious courses can be so long and entangled... there's a lot to go over.

    I suppose I say stick with the curriculum.
     
  27. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    1,172

    Nov 26, 2018

    I'd imagine it's more "discuss the main views, then share how to critically think about all views one might encounter". We might talk about a couple viewpoints of a situation, but then acknowledge there might be more, and how we might approach thinking / processing those.
     
    Obadiah likes this.

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. MissCeliaB,
  2. NC Teacher 4
Total: 247 (members: 3, guests: 225, robots: 19)
test