Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Teaching Politics

While I was recently in Florida, I heard about this story: PBC middle school teacher with ‘idiot’ Trump test question in political detention. It is another teacher story where you wonder what in the world this teacher was thinking!

“The teacher presented a multiple-choice quiz that included a question about the identity of the 45th president of the United States. The clues in the question were “Republican; Real Estate businessman; idiot.” Referring to President Donald Trump as an “idiot” on a test question — or any American president as an “idiot”, for that matter — is never justifiable.”

I’m not saying that teachers shouldn’t have an opinion, but I don’t believe that it should be in the classroom.  We need to teach our students to be critical thinkers and let them discover their opinion from what they have learned. They need to learn how to make informed decisions.

All the training I have ever had instilled in me that I need to teach students that there are always at least two sides to a story. I was always told that I couldn’t push one political party over another. If I invited one candidate from a party to talk to my class, I needed to invite a candidate from another party. I had to make sure that I didn’t show bias either way.

I was very careful about staying politically neutral because I feel this was important to teach students how to be critical thinkers. A teacher is in a very powerful position and can really influence students who are unsure of who they believe in. They, in turn, could go home and influence their parents. Or they may go home and actually share an opinion that could cause conflict at home. This would not be bad if the student had this opinion from their own personal research and not just from the teacher’s influence.

I don’t feel that when I was growing up, I was taught to defend my beliefs well enough. Whenever I get in a conflict where I have to defend my opinion, my heart races and I get all flustered. I think if I had more practice when I was in school, I would be able to do a better job of voicing my opinion and defending it if necessary.

We need to teach students skills that they can use to make their own minds up in the future. Teachers shouldn’t try to mold students into believing what we want them to believe in but we should be teaching them to stand behind their beliefs and be able to defend them with facts and reasons for this.

I try to ask students their opinions and then have them practice into explaining why they felt this way. If they can’t explain why then they really don’t believe what they are saying. This defense of a belief needs to be practiced often. Too often, we expect students to memorize what we want them to believe without even knowing why they believe this.

How do you teach politics in the classroom? Please share.

Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

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