Introduction

In this age of the polarizing spectrum, where politics occupy everyone’s daily life, separating political from moral beliefs becomes all the more difficult. The question lies as to whether teachers are obliged to share those political beliefs with their students, or to stay silent and allow those students to make those decisions for themselves. Teachers often discover a fine line between discussing personal and professional life with their students, but where would political views be considered in reference to that line? Teachers should consider the future and wellbeing of their students when debating whether or not to express political biases in the classroom.

Resources

Many resources regarding politics and education reside on the internet. Teachers should consider utilizing some of these resources when deciding the extent to which they want to introduce political opinions into their classes.

Lesson Plans

  1. Analyzing The Political Spectrum: This lesson plan, provided by Common Sense Education, allows students to explore the political spectrum and discover their own politics for themselves. The plan includes several resources for teacher use, including prompts for pair-share reflections, a mini quiz, a survey, and room for a whole-class discussion. This lesson plan is mainly intended for older, highschool-level students. Teachers could potentially utilize this resource to allow for students to make political decisions for themselves before the topics come up in class. If teachers fear that they will infringe too much on their students’ opinions, then introducing this resource ahead of time could be useful for them.
  2. Media and Politics Lesson Plans: This resource from media education consultant Frank W Baker provides dozens of credibly cited lesson plans that examine the media’s role in American politics. The classroom activities range in age levels, from third grade, up to twelfth grade. The lesson plans include prompts about advertisements and propaganda in political campaigns.
  3. Civic Engagement: This three-day lesson plan from PBS encourages students to become more involved in their own forms of activism. Rather than push any particular agenda on the students, this lesson plan encourages students to discover the issues that they care about and speak up as global citizens. Teachers can use this lesson plan to encourage students to engage in the political process and make decisions for themselves. The plan includes one 30-minute classroom activity for each of the three days and two 30-minute homework assignments. The material could be implemented with slightly younger age groups, including middle and high school students.

Articles

  1. How Much Is Too Much?: This NPR article by Steve Drummond explores the question of how involved classrooms should be with politics. The article includes an interview with the authors of the book, The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education. The authors asserts that educators should find a happy medium in terms of how much they involve civics in their classroom discussions. They state that schools should be political spaces, just “not partisan ones.” Students should not be working towards identifying with any one side of the political spectrum. Overall, the article asserts that having some sort of discussion in politics within the classroom is important and healthy for students’ growing minds.
  2. Negatives of Neutrality: This article by Tim Walker from NeaToday attempts to evaluate the student perspective on politics in the classroom. The article alleges that political neutrality in a classroom actually shortchanges and marginalizes students. Walker makes the claims that education is inherently political and that neutrality is its own political choice. Issues such as racism, inequality, and climate change are often labeled as partisan, and in turn are avoided by many educators. Teachers should instead consider these issues through a lense of equality and justice as opposed to politics.
  3. Response to Proposed Bill Limiting Classroom Politics: This article is by Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post responds to a proposed education bill from Arizona that would prevent teachers from introducing any political or controversial material to their students. The author views schools as a means of engaging students in participatory democracy. She lists four steps for teachers to follow when engaging their classes in democratic discussions. Students should do their own research and consider multiple perspectives before formulating their own decisions. The article’s angle and four-step process can help teachers in easing their discussion into more societal related issues.

Informational Sites 

  1. Politics in Education: This page from Oxford Bibliographies gives a good overview of politics in education and a history of educational politics. When considering how deeply to involve political affairs in the classroom, teachers should build an understanding of past politics in education. Whether or not educators choose not to include such affairs in their lesson plans, they can use this resource to better understand the story of politics in education.
  2. Politics in Schools Debate: This resource from debate.org lists many of the pros and cons of discussing politics in schools. The site shows user-submitted opinions about whether or not politics belong in the classroom. Teachers and students alike can use this resource to make a decision when weighing whether or not to bring up a certain topic in class.

Conclusion

Whether or not they like to admit it, students, especially the younger ones, admire their educators and deeply acknowledge the information that their teachers present. At an early age, children’s minds become especially moldable. As a result, teachers be careful and genuinely consider the lessons that they are teaching their students. Whether educators believe themselves to be infringing too much on their students’ political lives or too little, the right amount of research will certainly assist them in arriving at a resolution.

Additional Resources

  1. HuffPost Article: Here, Huffington Post’s David Cutler outlines a teacher’s struggle in deciding how to respond to students initiating political conversations in class. He believes that a teacher’s job is to expose young minds to new ideas. In the most dramatic sense, when a teacher leans too far to one end of the political spectrum, his/her influence begins to mold the minds of the next generation. On the other hand, he questions if teachers should affirm in the students’ intellectual maturity and ability to make decisions for themselves. This article does a good job of demonstrating both sides of the debate, but ultimately leans towards a more political classroom environment.
  2. Education World: This article yet again weighs the question of whether or not schools should incorporate political biases into their class discussions. It discusses teachers’ fear of parental pushback and disinclination to influence students’ opinions. It includes quotes from real teachers and ultimately supports both sides of the argument.
  3. DfE Warns Against Politics In Schools: This article from the Guardian cites a bill proposed by the UK’s Department for Education (DfE) that prohibits educators from using school resources for political party purposes. This law promotes and gives insight on the side of the debate that inhibits partisan issues from entering schools. This article includes much of the teacher perspective in disapproval of this bill.