Teachers should be allowed modern politics in the classroom

Historically, public schools of America have been adamantly avoidant of aligning politically with one side. Because of this, some teachers across the U.S. have faced job termination or reassignment because of their willingness to discuss politics in the classroom. In order to promote healthy conversations between people of opposing sides, Teachers should be allowed and encouraged to have healthy political conversations with their students to produce informed voters.

In the midst of Donald Trump’s controversial presidential term, the nation is so separated and every conversation is polarized and angry. Some of that anger could be avoided had we all grown up learning how to discuss a topic which we’re passionate about gracefully and productively.

It’s not like teachers always have a choice either; most American public school educators are “encouraged” to keep their opinions at bay, while others are banned from discussing the topic all together. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s interpretation of the Constitution regarding this issue includes “speech in the classroom does not have much First Amendment protection,” and that “[teachers] should exercise caution so as not to give the appearance that [they] are advocating a particular religious or political view in the classroom,” according to the Huffington Post.

If not for the child’s sake, what about the constitutional infringement brought about by limiting a teacher’s freedom of speech? In 2016, teacher Frank Navarro of Mountain View High School in the Bay Area was put on “paid administrative leave” for comparing then president-elect Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While it makes sense that schools may want to leave political discussions to a child’s parents, parents alone cannot provide a completely bipartisan atmosphere for political research and conversation.

In addition, school sanctioned political research could vastly reduce the tendency for voters to blindly vote for the candidate their parents told them to vote for. Everyone has different experiences that mold their opinions, meaning that one person’s opinion is not necessarily valid just because it comes from an authority figure.

During the 2016 Presidential Election, some teachers, including 10 former “teacher of the year” recipients wrote an open letter to the public expressing the need for openness in the classroom. They wrote: “We are teachers. We are supposed to remain politically neutral. For valid reasons, we don’t want to offend our students, colleagues or community members. But there are times when a moral imperative outweighs traditional social norms,” according to The Washington Post.

The sentiment expressed by those teachers illustrates the fact that, while uncensored political discussion in a schooling environment may make some uncomfortable, it’s important to have if we want to produce intelligent, informed voters of tomorrow.