Why Teaching and Politics Should not Mix

bushIt is extraordinarily important for teachers to resist imposing their political views on their students. At the essence of our democracy is the right for people to decide what path is right for themselves without a certain dogma inadvertently force fed into them.

This is what happens when teachers do not allow students to think for themselves:

A Washington, D.C., middle school assignment asking students to compare former president George W. Bush with Adolf Hitler has upset some parents and community members.

The assignment at McKinley Middle School asked sixth graders to compare the two figures in a Venn diagram, according to USA Today. Instructions say students “have read about two men of power who abused their power in various ways,” and asks them to refer to the articles “Fighting Hitler -– A Holocaust Story,” and “Bush: Iraq War Justified Despite No WMD.”

Some parents said the assignment was disrespectful to the former president, according to a local NBC affiliate. A former speechwriter for Bush said the teacher who gave the assignment should be fired.

A person who can’t tell the difference between George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler shouldn’t be teaching children,” Marc Thiessen told Fox News. “This isn’t even political bias, this is utter incompetence.”

A statement from D.C. Public Schools said the teacher “admits to extremely poor judgment and short sightedness and will apologize to students. The school will also send a letter home to families explaining the incident and offering to address any additional questions should they arise.”

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2 Responses to “Why Teaching and Politics Should not Mix”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    Context is critical. The teacher sets the context for lessons. I remember, as a relief teacher, having to give a grade 9 maths class an assessment task. The context was already given. The students had to complete the task over 2 periods (just over an hour). Being an assessment task it was not permissible to help the students, other than to clarify the question. To be able to complete the task each student needed to know Pythagoras’ Theorem, co-ordinate geometry, basic statistics and the context in which the problem was set, and be able to decide on a process for solving the problem.

    Out of about 20 students, perhaps 3 fully understood the task. Most of them had no idea of the context and little or no idea about Pythagoras’ theorem, co-ordinate geometry or basic statistics. All I can say is that it was the longest 2 periods of my entire career.

    What does this have to do with the homework assignment in question?

    We do not know the context in which the assignment was set. We do not know what facts concerning the two gentlemen the students had learned so we don’t really know if they had any basis upon which to consider the intersection of the sets of facts concerning each person in question.

    Well, they were both leaders of their respective countries. Each made certain decisions, but why? Each was democratically elected. So how much information did the students have about the policies of each leader, the times in which leader lived, the actions in government of each leader and the system of government that applied in each case.

    Was it an exercise in making value judgments? If so the information available to the students would need to be factual, they would have to know something of ethics, indeed so much more.

    Furthermore, I would question the appropriateness of such an assignment for grade 6 students. It might have a place in a tertiary politics class but primary school children have a lot more to learn and experience before they could even begin to do such a task justice.

    In conclusion, I have to agree. The political bias of the teacher does not belong in the classroom.

  2. kedavis99 Says:

    Wow! I have taught through a few different presidential election cycles. I always make a point to keep my personal beliefs just that personal or at least try to. I loved using that time of year to teach propaganda techniques, using mailers and websites from candidates on both sides of the aisle. In the last election the social studies teacher and I both had 8th graders at the same time. My group never wanted to wait to get to her room to see the newest polling electoral map so I began showing it in my room. This lead to much running back and forth between the rooms not only by the students but also by my fellow teacher and I as we saw states that were traditionally blue turn red, and those traditionally red turn blue. The kids asked who I was voting for, I wouldn’t answer but I explained to them my process of going through websites, watching debates, reading interviews, trying to gather as much information as I could to make an educated decision. I also let them know that there were issues I felt more strongly about than others, education being one and no surprise to them 🙂 I also let them know that there were issues I really didn’t look at because while they cause high controversy (abortion and gun rights) I don’t see them changing drastically any time soon, there would have to be a major majority shift to either party for things to change and I don’t see that happening. All in all I tried to teach my students how to think and research not what to think. I even had students come in spouting their parents words and beliefs clearly and by the end of our propaganda unit they had switched sides, that was when I decided it was time to hide 😉 Never had a parent complain though. No idea what the actual goal of this assignment was but it’s not ok no matter who you support sorry!

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