Editorial: Teachers Should Be Objective in the Classroom

Annalise Deal

The upcoming election provides many opportunities for the discussion of politics, and teachers who are passionate about their views may be understandably eager to share. Yet educating the student body about any issue takes place more effectively through an unbiased presentation of both sides.

In these highly politicized times, teachers should make an effort to remain objective, saving personal information and political views for outside the classroom. School is a place for teachers to “help guide students to question the process and think critically about their decisions,” says English teacher Tania Kranzler, and fostering these critical thinking skills is best done when teachers “stay out of stating their political preferences.”

The authority inherent in the position of teaching gives teachers’ words more weight in discussion, blurring the line between fact and opinion and so impeding intelligent discourse. Students are expected in most situations to take teachers’ statements at face value. Even in a discussion as subjective as analysis of a novel or passage in English class, the view of the teacher will inevitably be the view students are expected to take in essays and on tests. This unique position of power that teachers hold in the classroom can leave those who adhere to different ideologies uncomfortable voicing their opposition.

When teachers inadvertently make those of the minority view feel dismissed, as if there is no validity to their point of view, the students will naturally think twice about stating their ideas. In this way, allowing personal opinions to color teaching can ultimately poison the classroom atmosphere. As in all matters from sexual orientation to religion, each student deserves to feel at ease expressing themselves, and only a decent respect for the reason and intelligence of students on both sides of the issue can stimulate interesting discussion.

If a teacher does feel the need to provide an opinion, he or she should at least provide sufficient disclaimer that they are injecting their opinion into a conversation, so as to draw a clear distinction between objective fact and subjective belief. This year especially, the need for teachers to present political issues in an impartial way is more critical than ever. With November’s pivotal election rapidly approaching, even students who will not cast their votes this year will make their first judgments of both candidates and parties. These judgments will form the beginnings of these young Americans’ outlook on the state of politics in America.

Ron Weiss, who teaches Statistics and Economics, feels that “the current election is a fantastic environment for teaching,” as “both candidates have very distinct views on everything.” At the same time, he says, “it is important for teachers to remain neutral with respect to political affiliations. I go out of my way to remain neutral, and at the end of the semester in my economics class it is not uncommon for students to ask me whether I’m a Democrat or a Republican…Students need to see both sides of any proposed…policy so that they can make an informed decision when it comes time to vote.”

Not offering students an even-handed look at both sides feeds the very partisanship that is behind the gridlock crippling our country. Objectivity, on the other hand, will create an environment of healthy, rational, broad-minded dialogue.

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Comments

5 Responses to “Editorial: Teachers Should Be Objective in the Classroom”

  1. egrose on October 3rd, 2012 7:06 pm

    I completely agree. When teachers assert their political views, it can not only affect students’ opinions while they only have limited knowledge on a subject, but also how comfortable students feel participating in class discussion. I’ve found that when these opinions dominate a classroom environment, the counter to a certain view is often left out, or even misrepresented in some cases.

  2. Virsies on October 3rd, 2012 9:52 pm

    While I understand that unbiased opinions might make students more open to sharing their opinions, I feel that teachers should be able to state their opinions to elevate the conversation and add new ideas. I personally love hearing what my teachers have to think about controversial issues, and I have never had a problem openly disagreeing with them. The teacher may affect what I think about the topic but I feel, ultimately my opinion is still what I decide, not what my teacher decides. Students, I believe, should learn to support their opinions when faced with someone with an opposing view, as they will have to do in real life, and while teachers shouldn’t be judgmental and harshly judge/oppose a student’s opinion, they should be able to express and support their opinion to elevate the conversation and further inform their students.

  3. rgordan on October 4th, 2012 9:15 pm

    I don’t think there’s a problem with teachers expressing opinions on controversial issues, but it is true that teachers possess a position of power in the classroom. The problem develops when teachers start to use this position of power to force students to agree with them.

    David Schmitt Reply:

    Agreed completely. Especially in a class where much of the grade is based on subjective assignments, like essays, a different opinion than a teacher may directly affect one’s grade

  4. adeal on December 14th, 2012 3:50 pm

    With the election this year, I have seen this become increasingly more of an issue, and I think that teachers need to me more conscience than ever of what is fact, opinion, and a discussion.