Teachers should bring their personal opinions into the classroom

The classroom hears it all: from nonessential gossip to controversial topics, it is a place where thought and discussion can proliferate– until a teacher has to promptly exclude him or herself from the conversation.

Some teachers have built a wall around their personal political beliefs for one reason or another: they do not want to influence the students, cause a divide or start any trouble. However, other teachers have taken more liberty with their tongue, and express their true opinions to their students. Contrary to what a bureaucratic school official might think, these political opinions have not destroyed classroom dynamics, isolating and embarrassing the students; they actually aid in the learning process.  

I am not saying that teachers should try to indoctrinate their students or debate them about why they are “wrong,” or that they should extol the students that are “right”– I believe that teachers should not shy away from being honest about their beliefs. And they should have every right to do so: in Pickering v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court ruled that school employees are allowed to speak about public issues.

Teachers have opinions. Students do too. Everyone is aware of this. That is why it amazes me that we try so hard to cover this fact up. By saying that teachers cannot speak their opinions, we are saying that any amount of disagreement should be avoided. A policy of avoidance is toxic: it breeds a falsified solidarity that easily shatters when someone decides to be open. We should embrace a difference of opinions because if we can accept one another with our opinions instead of in spite of our opinions, we will be able to better respect one another.

A lack of respect for one another is one of the biggest causes of the partisan divide. When we do not respect what someone is saying, we completely disregard their opinion, starting an endless cycle in which we can never reach a compromise.

We live in a polarized world focused on loyalty to our political party rather than actual values. We believe that if there is any tension from disagreement, our whole society will fall to pieces. We fear difference and strive for homogeneity. If something threatens that, we prevent any talk about it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Not really.

We do, in fact, live in a convoluted world filled with a mix of beliefs and opinions. And realistically, we have to associate with people who have a wide spectrum of political opinions, so putting students in a fantasy world where their authority figures can neither agree nor disagree with them does not help anyone. Controversy is part of life, so why are we censoring our teachers?

I am not saying that allowing teachers to tell students their opinions will be the panacea to all of our social ills. However, it is a step in the right direction. Teachers and students who respect and listen to one another prove that it is possible to recognize different opinions without polarization.

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