Monday, February 4, 2013

Do You Share Your Political Views with Your Students? Should You?

Democrat? Republican? Other? Is it a secret to your students? Should it be?

Spend any time in a social studies classroom and you're guaranteed to witness an inquisitive student bluntly ask their teacher "So, who did you vote for?" And in a vast majority of the instances, the teacher will give a coy response - something to the effect of "Well, it doesn't matter, but I'm choosing not to tell you." This quickly leads to the discussion of why the teacher won't tell.

Many teachers proudly proclaim that they're so good at keeping their views a secret that students never know. They wear their ambiguity like a badge of honor. After all, our job isn't to tell students what to think, but how to think. I fully agree with that, and to a large extent I am that teacher. I don't openly and freely share my political views, but lately I'm beginning to question this more and more.

Is that where we are? That we can't openly and respectfully share our political views with our students? Let me be clear, I am not talking about advocating one set of views over another or about right or wrong, but I am talking about sharing something basic- just your views, your leanings, maybe who you voted for.

All too often we lament the severe lack of anything that remotely resembles civil discourse in our country, and rightfully so. And yet at the same time, promoting civil discourse is exactly what we strive for - what we expect - in our classrooms.

We do not tolerate disrespect in our classrooms. We work hard to have meaningful and respectful discussions in our classrooms. And we should. We bend over backwards to provide all viewpoints to a topic, and to make sure that every side is heard from. And we should.

So, it is with that in mind that I wonder...Why can't we, the responsible adults in the room, share our own views? Why can't we model the civic discourse and respect that we expect from our students? Wouldn't it be a powerful example to let them come to their own conclusions and form their own opinions, and then we share ours? After all, we know their views and opinions, and expect them to share them openly in the classroom. Isn't it the least we can do to return the favor?

Wouldn't it make a difference for us to show how we, as adults, can disagree without being disagreeable? To show how sometimes we do not share the views of our students, yet at the same time we still treat them with the utmost respect and equality? Wouldn't it be better for us to model how you can challenge the idea, but not the person.

I understand all the arguments against sharing personal views in the classroom, but the longer I teach the less and less I buy into them. As it is right now I don't announce my views on most issues, and I have yet to share who I voted for...but I think that time is coming to a close.

How do you handle this in your classroom?


  1. This is a tough one. I see both sides of it. On one hand, I can understand why teachers might not want to share their views for fear that students {and their pesky parents} might "argue" but in reality, I agree with what you are saying that you should be able to say, "personally, I voted for... because ..." while also being respectful of other students {and once again their pesky parents} political beliefs.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Samara! I totally get where you're coming from. I'd be OK with "arguing" so long as it was respectful - and more of a discussion, rather than an argument. I think that's healthy. At the same time, not all students (and parents!) are ready for that, and I need to respect that too. Also, the teenage brain is highly impressionable, and as I's not my job to teach "what" but "how" to think. I'd hate to sway a studen's views one way or the other. It's a fine line to walk.

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