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.