Political Speech in the Classroom

>> Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As a current student still involved with the dichotomy between free speech in the classroom and undue influence i can say that students will definitely feel pressure if the stated beliefs of a teacher conflict with your own. This is never more true than in political instances. Matters such as gay marriage and abortion are volatile and if you know that your teacher comes down on the opposite side that you do you will always feel that there is a risk of retaliation there. This retaliation would be totally unjustified but the anxiety never goes away. That is why i am choosing to highlight the decision of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan that it should be up to individual school districts to determine whether buttons in the classroom interfered with learning.

From the times article,

it should be up to individual school districts to determine whether buttons in the classroom interfered with learning. He cautioned, however, that “school officials may not take a sledgehammer to freedom of expression and then avoid all scrutiny by invoking alleged professional judgment.”

The judge said that while a majority of students would probably understand that a button represented a teacher’s personal view, there would be “inevitable misperceptions on the part of a minority.”

It is my own personal opinion that teachers of k-6 are not going to make any disruption in the educational environment if they were a button. The friction and disruption occurs at higher levels of school where students have more defined political opinions. It is the potential conflict between one student's thoughts and the teachers that makes learning tough. Are these kids feeling pressure from their teachers to act in a certain way based on a button? Probably not. At the same time though i do not see the need to bring a campaign button into the learning environment.

I know that my teachers were always unwilling to discuss their own personal political opinions in class, even government, to avoid any issue. I do not feel that my education suffered from that and it probably benefited from that because no one felt restrained in voicing their own opinions out of fear of retaliation. Some of my classmates growing up were actually very conservative and learning would have been made more difficult for them if they had to fear teachers thrusting their opinion on them.

This is not to say that truth telling about the political events of the day has no place. If a child asked about the race and whether obama was a terrorist or even if his tax plan does what he says it does the teacher is more than free to respond. They are not forced to deny objective reality to be balanced.

Teachers should be non-partisan while in the class room. On their own time they are allowed to live their lives as they please, run for office, write letters to the editor etc. In the classroom though non-partisan is the way to go. After all, the truth has a liberal bias so teaching it should really sink the gop.

BtW, I found this to be amusing,

The government, like any business, has the authority to tell its employees what to do so that it can continue to operate effectively. A teacher cannot spend each English period talking about baseball, or each physics class teaching false scientific theories.


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