Election season and education

Those who know me know that I fancy myself a bit of a political junkie.  I check polls obsessively leading up to the election comparing them to previous elections and demographics.  I haven’t updated this blog recently in large part because of the election.  Poll watching took over much of my time leading up to the election, and, quite frankly, deep despair took over after the election.

You see, I’m a democrat through and through and am an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter.  Usually, after an election, I pour over exit polling and demographics and the like.  Of course, like many people I was taken by surprise (to say the least) by the results of this election.  I had shared with my students my predictions (for the first time in 4 elections, I was wrong), and had to face them the next day on only 15 minutes of sleep.  A few days after the election, we got an email from  the administration informing us that there have been parent complaints that teachers are fighting with students about the election results and that while it is acceptable to discuss the election, we should not “share our views or opinions” with our students.

In my classes we talk about politics (directly or indirectly) a fair amount, and I make an attempt to remain generally impartial. My senior course is titled Argument and Persuasion.  In this class, students write argumentative essays on a variety of social and political issues.  I don’t want to make my feelings too well known as I don’t want students thinking they have to agree with me in their arguments.  My junior course is American literature.  In this class, we routinely discuss the changing nature of American culture and the social and political upheaval of our nation.  I attempt to remain somewhat impartial to allow them to make their own informed opinions on American culture and American society.

But the directive from administration got me thinking: should we as educators really be avoiding sharing our views and opinions on political matters?  Obviously, we shouldn’t be forcing our views on our students, nor should we be suggesting that our political views are the only appropriate ones.  In building relationships with our students, we must be honest with them.  Why always hide this part of our identity from them?  Aren’t we doing them (and ourselves) a bit of a disservice by suggesting they can’t handle a genuine political discussion?

While I don’t generally share my overtly political views, I do share my opinions with them about the world in a lot of ways.  For the most part the literature pushes the conversations this way.  I tell them every year that they need to fight for what they believe is right.  I urge them to choose love even when hate is such a tempting option.  I suppose these shouldn’t be seen as political opinions, but in our culture today, they are.