As Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama debate political issues on national television, students face the responsibility of developing their own opinions. Based on what they watch, what they hear at home, what they and their friends discuss at school, and what they see on the internet, students discover their core beliefs and learn to argue them accurately.
While exposure to news and campaigns is crucial for formulating an opinion, one source shouldn’t be sharing their views with students: teachers.
Though teachers have been told to not impose their political beliefs on their students, the 2012 presidential election and upcoming amendments have introduced a situation in which this “rule” has been ignored by some teachers. While educated discussions on various political topics ought to be encouraged amongst students, teachers should strive to avoid all involvement and allow students to develop their opinions.
Students, when faced with the opinions of their teachers, may fear speaking out because of potential consequences. If a teacher presents a political argument that a student disagrees with, why would they say so if they felt their grade or relationship with that teacher would be affected? Thus, students learn to only discuss opinions when they feel safe; they suppress their thoughts because they fear disapproval from figures of authority.
This is not a healthy environment for students to formulate opinions.
There are, however, classes which encourage student participation on crucial issues. Morality, a discussion-based class for juniors, creates an atmosphere where students learn the teachings of the Catholic Church but allows students to openly talk about their opinion on controversial topics. Granted, this class is meant to have disagreements, but other classes should follow the same format if intelligent, reasonable discussions are to take place. It can’t just be the teacher talking at the class.
Some teachers may find it difficult to mask opinions on political issues when teaching a class regarding the government. But in order for students to form their own opinions on said issues, both sides must be presented evenly. This may be a challenge for teachers with strong views, but it is an important part of their job.
Teachers, if there isn’t time for full-class discussions on the topics you choose to share your beliefs on, if students are unable to say how they feel about the election or the amendments or whatnot, don’t bring it up. Opinions don’t belong in a lecture.