The ideas represented within this article are opinions in nature and are solely that of the author. They may not wholly reflect the stance of The Forest Scout newspaper as a publication.
The year is 2017. President Trump has just been elected into the oval office. A man sits on his futon wearing a tank top–watching Fox News–as the condensation of his Budweiser drips down from his hand onto his tattered Levis jeans. On the other end of the spectrum, a woman reaches for the trash can next to her red velvet couch to spit out her disgust. Society has accepted these exaggerated ideals for political views and has created a makeshift game of ‘pick a side.’ In addition to the already heightened polarization, President Trump’s radical transparency in releasing information frequently also contributes to the overbearing discussions that plague our day and age.
These discussions–or debates rather, depending on how you view them–have no place inside school walls. Since the day President Trump was elected, the discussion of politics has been especially prevalent. Politics will almost always connect to our academics–be it in foreign policy for history class, current events for English, or in studying the judicial system for law. That does not make it acceptable, however, to make students listen to their superiors’ opinions on a personal topic like politics. Whether teachers do it to force their “correct” values upon students, or to vent their opinion on yesterday’s topic, it cannot be accepted.
Teachers know they aren’t not supposed to discuss their political opinions in any sense, so why do they? Tenure gives teachers a sense of security and control over their class. According to the school district, they have earned that security. It is also known that the atmosphere of educational institutions is primarily liberal, which doesn’t start at college–contrary to popular belief–it simply continues. If we continue the tradition of allowing teachers to impose their political views, we will suppress students’ ability to be open-minded in politics and only advance the divide between parties. Rather than teaching the youth about political opinions, perhaps we should be taught that picking a political party as opposed to fleshing out individual issues is foolish because their values don’t have to be defined to a political party. In the end, they should always vote for the best candidate.
For students that have already formulated their political views, teachers expressing their opinions can often make the student insecure by way of contrasting with the values that are taught at home. When teachers mix their ideological beliefs with political beliefs, things can truly cross an undrawn–and often unreferenced–line. Discussions about issues like abortion and gun control affect one’s values and ideals. Teachers isolating their own ideological beliefs to their students encroaches on the students’ ability to choose and what they see as right and wrong.
Teachers standing in place as parents derives from English Common Law. It established the saying “In loco parentis” which is latin for “in place of a parent.” This refers to the legal responsibility teachers have on their students, but it also allows teachers to act in the best interest of the students as they see fit. The doctrine allows students to present us with any facts or information that they see fit, as long as it does not violate our civil liberties. The key word in the doctrine is facts. Teachers saying things like, “Trump is stupid” or misguided rhetorical questions like,“so you think abortion should only be for those who can pay?” are not presenting their students with facts. No matter the evidence that backs up the topic, those types of statements will always be opinions. Getting a sense for what your teacher believes by the end of the year is beyond normal. Students spend countless hours with their teacher and they are bound to get a few hints along the way, but when teachers blatantly impose their beliefs or even attack yours, they create a dangerous divide.
A student sits patiently in class, waiting for his teacher to finish up her bashing of our current president. A bashing that she has every right to exert, but not so much in front of a group of teenagers. The student wonders: if she’s so passionate about “fixing the system,” perhaps she should be out there running for president. She may even be the person that the media could analyze and go without finding one single fault. The teacher’s passion continues to ooze, prompting a student to raise his or her hand and ask, “Are you sure Trump is tanking the economy, because our stock market is hitting unprecedented numbers?”
At the end of the day, I’m not even a Trump supporter, but I refuse to allow such a respected figure–like a teacher–misconstrue such vital information. That question left me with nothing but scrutiny for the entire year, not only from my teacher, but also from my peers. Instead of productively discussing and learning within the course, I sit and carve into the top of the desk, ‘save it for the voting booth.’