Neutrality & Censorship: Politics’ Role in the Classroom

Neutrality & Censorship: Politics’ Role in the Classroom

The Government Politics class is just one opportunity for students to discuss politics in the classroom. (via Camilla Piza, sophomore)
During last year’s especially divisive election season, politics seemed to overflow into every aspect of day-to-day life, polarizing America’s electorate. It consumed the nation’s televisions, devoured the country’s headlines, and somehow managed to sneak its way into even the most benign of conversations. While some believed tensions would subside after the November 2016 election, four months have passed, and you would be hard-pressed to find a single newspaper devoid of a political headline.  While talking politics at the workplace has been historically taboo, it is often unavoidable for teachers. In this era of emotionally charged politics, Pine Crest teachers have been tasked with the challenge of remaining politically neutral during class and removing bias from their teaching. “As an educator, I believe it’s unethical to politically indoctrinate our students and that we have a duty to let students form their own opinions and political beliefs,” said English teacher Dr. Turnbull. As the molder of society’s youngest citizens, she warned, “It’s crucial to remind ourselves that our students, who are not of voting age, are in a dependent, subordinate position in our classrooms and to force politics on a ‘captive audience’ is a form of bullying.”  Teachers are also responsible for moderating the political discussions that have made their way into almost every Upper School classroom. As classes with evidently politically relevant topics, the social sciences have been especially conducive to political discourse. Jaimee Rashbaum, who teaches AP U.S. History and AP Capstone, said, “I think that it's very important that high school students have the opportunity to discuss current events as well as learn how to listen to various opinions and respond respectfully.” Acknowledging the challenge of unbiased teaching and maintaining neutrality, she said “I do my very best to keep my own politics out of my own lessons; however, I cherish the opportunities students get to express their own views in a respectful manner.”  Coming into the 2016-2017 school year, I feared discussing politics in the classroom because of the anger and emotion that can erupt from a political disagreement; however, over the course of the year, I discovered that classrooms can be great places for political discussion because teachers can contribute helpful outside information, ensure that facts are accurate, and make sure that discussions do not devolve into name-calling.  Many of my classmates had similar fears but soon made discoveries of their own. Shayne Pollock, a fellow sophomore, said, “Most teachers don’t mind if we talk politics, as long as it's constructive and we back up our reasoning for our beliefs.” Fearing censorship himself, another student, Adrian Abedon, also expressed his relief, stating, “I feel like I don’t have to be afraid to speak my mind about politics whenever we’re discussing government in classes such as AP U.S. History.” While politics may be difficult to discuss outside of school, after almost half a year of regular political discourse in the classroom, I fervently believe that no one has anything to fear, as long as they can listen as well as they can argue.