Since You Asked: Tackling North Shore’s Advice Box
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Dear North Shore Notes,
One of my teachers is very political in class but portrays the side/point-of-view they agree with while disparaging the other. I think they feel safe because they are barely questioned. Is this the right way to be teaching? I thought it would be better for students to learn both sides and come to their own opinion.
First off, thanks for reaching out to North Shore Notes to seek advice (you came to the right place)! You seem to be in a pretty tough situation, and I admire your honesty, especially concerning a classroom “taboo” such as politics. I will tell you that your teacher should not be doing this. The very fact that your teacher feels “safe,” as you say, because of their impressionable audience does not make a difference. In fact, it makes the situation worse: continuously feeding into the feedback loop of the classroom echo chamber is worse than challenging students’ preconceptions.
Politics do not really belong in the classroom, and when politics are brought up, both sides of an issue should be presented. Ultimately, a teacher should want students to weigh their values with their critical thinking to determine where they fall on the political spectrum. A teacher imposing his/her own beliefs on students is not conducting class appropriately.
Literature, Art, and History are subjects in which "the world" (i.e., politics) is often central to their understanding. Even subjects like Math, Physics, and Chemistry will touch on the people involved in their development and the worlds in which they lived. As high school students, you and I are treated as "independent" thinkers. As such, students will often take offense to the suggestion that they are not mature enough to be exposed to an opinion. As a junior, I guarantee that it is almost impossible for my teachers to hide "opinions.” Students are curious, and they want to know just who is teaching them (and they love to gossip). To think that a muzzle should be cast on high school teachers is to assume that you and I are not mature enough to discern between "truth" and "opinion.”
That said ...
I am of the belief that teachers should not use their class as the audience for their "preaching,” or “rant,” as some like to call it. A rant is uncalled for, unprofessional, and certainly not why both you and I come to school. Ideally, a good teacher is effective without the need to express any political or religious bias. You and I can both spot a bad teacher. A bad teacher espouses their personal opinions as fact and ridicules students for holding a difference of opinion. The worst end up on Tucker Carlson.
The bottom line: you recognize a problem, you make the change. There are multiple ways you could go about lessening the extent to which this class becomes uncomfortable for you and your peers. One step you could take is to confront your teacher directly. Nicely tell your teacher why you think they may be crossing a line. Afterward, you both may respect each other a little more.
If this plan comes to naught, I suggest you start taking some very diligent notes. Write down some of the things your teacher says, what you find particularly striking. Second, talk to your parents about what you’re dealing with- they know better than you and me. Lastly, I suggest you see your Dean and/or Dr. Vitow. Flip open your notebook and re-iterate your teacher’s rants verbatim. If your teacher’s statements are as alarming as you say, your reprise is sure to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Remember, if this does not become such an awkward conversation, you’re doing something wrong.
There is a great quote attributed to JFK, and I happen to think it speaks volumes in your situation: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”
If you truly persist and stay true to who you are, I believe you will be fine. Rather nod along silently to your teacher’s partisan preaching? Go ahead. It’s a free country.
But nobody likes a fraidy-cat.