North’s history department faced a crisis this summer. Over the break, the conservative news source The Federalist released emails sent between North teachers that caused a national controversy. It was picked up by Fox News and spread all over the country, eventually resulting in members of our school’s faculty receiving death threats. The school has stood behind its teachers, quite admirably in my opinion, and, recently, teachers participated in a walk out to protest the accusations of biased curriculum; a hearing on the subject is coming up soon. In light of these of these events, something has been on my mind: Should teachers discuss politics with their classes?
It isn’t a question with an easy answer. Politics are a hotly contested issue, especially nowadays, and I can imagine that it would be hard for a teacher to create an environment conducive to learning if students are constantly at each other’s throats over their political differences. School should, for the most part, be about imparting information, and politics is all about opinions, so it can be hard to have a discussion in a classroom setting. Additionally, politics may not be necessarily relevant to the class at hand. Unless you take Close Up, it isn’t the main topic of any class.
That being said, school is one of the only forums available to students in which a discussion about politics could possibly take place. Politics is a very touchy topic, and it is often avoided in polite conversation so as not to cause tension. School, on the other hand, is a place where people who might not interact otherwise spend a good deal of time together. Teachers are well versed in creating a safe environment for contentious arguments and can foster a place where conversations between people with different political values can come together and actually have a discussion.
There are obvious pros and cons to both sides of the argument. Instinctively, I believe that politics should be discussed in school. Politics are of vital importance to American society and should not be avoided just because they might be a “touchy subject.” However, upon further examination, I do think that my own bias certainly plays into that opinion. As someone who slants heavily to the left, I would count myself among the overwhelming thought majority that exists at North, and so I feel comfortable and safe expressing my political opinion. But for people who aren’t a part of that group, I can imagine that they might be worried to express their contrary opinion. Not only that, but the idea that politics can distract from the actual material of a class is a valid one. I know that I am passionate about what I believe in, and talking about it can make other things seem less important.
Still, even with the possible negative consequences, I think that talking about politics is something that should be done in school, and so do 69% of students who responded to our Instagram poll on the topic. In my opinion, the only way to make sure students are informed is to engage with the material. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away. Just because talking about politics may be unpleasant, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, and school is the best place for discussions to take place. The school environment is one that is already equipped to deal with an exchange of differing opinions. We need to talk politics at North. Otherwise, we won’t be able to talk about it anywhere else.