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Opinion: Teachers should express their political opinions

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Hoang)

For plenty of educators, the question as to whether expressing their opinions in class is appropriate is a complicated subject to approach, especially in a political climate where opinions and beliefs can polarize the country.

Classrooms are great places to have meaningful discussions by freely sharing ideas because those involved are exposed to different viewpoints. For that reason, teachers should be able to express their political opinions.

The purpose of communication is to bounce ideas back and forth with the people around you. Discussions encourage open-mindedness, which is important regarding politics because they are complex. When teachers express their political opinions, even if they don’t align with the majority of the opinion in the classroom, they are at least encouraging discourse and making students aware that other perspectives exist.

It might be frightening for some students to want to share their ideas, especially when they differ from the teacher’s, but as long as the teacher provides the correct environment and invites peaceful discussion, then they create the comfortable surroundings necessary to express different viewpoints.

Lots of students tend to be stuck on the same route of thinking, so in a school environment, where their purpose is to learn, teachers should take advantage of every opportunity they have to expand their students’ minds.

Sure, since teachers are authority figures there could potentially be issues regarding how they choose to spread their ideas, but those who know how to utilize their position correctly would know to make their classroom a place of learning and opportunity rather than a place of limited perspective.

Furthermore, politics are central in many social studies classes, such as United States History and Government. Shying away from political discourse undermines its importance and causes students to not take the topic seriously, thus preventing them from taking the initiative to engage with the material.

With major events happening around the world, good or bad, teachers could take this opportunity to relate their students to what they’ve learned, providing them a clearer understanding of their material and broader perspective of the world around them.

Debates are a great way to open students up to discussion, for example, especially when it comes to social and political matters afflicting the nation. It is the teacher’s job to expand a student’s worldview in subjects like History or Government, and providing them a proper environment and platform for that is fundamental for them developing their perspective.

And just as students exercise their right to freedom of speech as they express their political opinions, so should teachers. There is no reason for teachers to not be allowed to talk about their political thoughts to their students.

If there is a topic or event that a teacher feels strongly about, then they have the right to address it in class. Not every student may necessarily agree, just like how teachers may not agree with everything a student would believe in, but the space for discussion provides a certain openness in the classroom environment to expose both teacher and student to new ideas and perspectives.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the teacher should be allowed to impose ideas on students and expect them to think the same way. If a teacher consistently tries to enforce their opinion or alienates anyone for thinking differently, then that’s a problem. Given the influence of teachers in a classroom, it’s also important that they are sensitive and careful when expressing their political opinions, but nonetheless should be able to.

Thus, when a teacher shares his/her perspectives and does not force them upon others, he/she instills a comfortable environment for students to express their own opinions, while also learning to respect the opinion of others.

Opposing view by Justin Hsieh

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