Should Teachers/Educators Express Political Viewpoints on their blogs?

I have to admit that for some time now, months, I have intentionally stopped posting political statements or overtly expressing my political beliefs on this blog.

For several reasons I have decided to cease with political blogging: First, as in the classroom, my words here are taken seriously by young people. I have students who might read this blog and I can influence them. Yes, being a positive influence is the goal, but by ranting political points of view, am I violating that trust factor with students? This was my question to myself. As I see it, I need to keep this blog focused and free from political rants, much like I do in the classroom.

Second, I have always felt that as an educator it is my duty to develop “thinkers,” and not simply expressions of my political or social beliefs. If I continually made rants in my classroom about the Iraq War, my feelings about Bush (or any other candidate), then I feel I am doing a disservice to my students. I am potentially influencing them to “believe” and “think” like me, and that is wrong in my humble opinion. As teachers our students will look up to us, and that can be a license for some to influence their students in ways that are simply not appropriate.

Yes, one can say that as long as I have a safe classroom and students feel safe in expressing viewpoints counter to mine, then I can stimulate discussion. In a college classroom, maybe, but in a high school classroom, students who disagree will more often than not be intimated and will close themselves off to me as a teacher.

This is not to say that political discussion is off limits in my classroom, it is not. Only I do not inject myself into it. I play the role of the mediator and allow students to debate, express beliefs, ask questions, and I do so from the point of view of a moderator. Like at any political debate, I ask questions, offer facts, information, and guidance; I do not allow myself to become an “influence” on a child when it comes to their social, political, or religious beliefs. This does not mean I will not challenge a student if I feel they have missed something in their argument or are presenting something utterly irrational.

I have no doubts that some of you may say, “Yeah, right.” But this is how it is. I want my students to consider, think, act, and do so on their own accord. That is how I can contribute to the betterment of this country as an educator.

So my question is, “Should educators such as myself, express political viewpoints in the classroom, or even here on a blog (one that students read)?” This may indeed be asking two different questions, but perhaps that is the point. Is it really two different things?


This post was a reflection from my readings of some of what Brooks Simpson has written in response to Kevin Levin political (for lack of a better word) blogging of late. Both historians I respect immensely.

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4 Responses to Should Teachers/Educators Express Political Viewpoints on their blogs?

  1. Brooks Simpson says:

    I enjoyed reading your exchange with Kevin Levin over this issue. I think there are ways to hold meaningful discussions about politics in the classroom so long as the discussion is on a non-personal level and everyone feels they can express their views and they will be heard respectfully. Sometimes interesting collisions result.

    My political stance tends to a broader skepticism that is multipartisan/nonpartisan in nature, and my students understand that I may poke away at anyone’s unexamined assumptions.

    I do think we can model behavior for our students in how we engage in political discussion as well, and that’s something worth considering.

  2. This is always a tough question. Two of my favorite professors, one at undergrad and one in grad school, were very opinionated politically. Both of them, however, took a “pay your money, make your choice” attitude: they believed what they believed and told you about it, but didn’t begrudge you your own opinion. They both encouraged healthy debate.

    Incidentally, one professor was a full-on Marxist and the other was a Van Tillian/Presuppositionalist Christian, which is funny it its own way. These two guys would never have agreed on anything except for the fact that their students should have academic liberty.

    I had other professors who were less open-minded and tended to grade on a curve: the curve, of course, was based on how closely your beliefs lined up with theirs.

    If you think you can talk politics with students without giving the impression that it will affect their grades, that’s great. If you can do it in a way that, like Brooks says above, models engagement then that is even better. Just never let them follow you blindly, and encourage their own intellectual activity.

    Just my $.02.

  3. matthew says:

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