POLITICAL IMPARTIALITY

shhhI’m a Registered Democrat, and My Students Found Out


because I told them. Teachers remain divided whether to share their political party affiliation or keep it secret. To those who do not tell students which party they are registered under, I urge you to share your secret.

If our goals are to teach respectful political discourse then our students must not assume that our political party affiliation is not shameful. Sure, it is sometimes best not to ‘talk politics’ with some friends and family, but ugly political encounters commonly stem from two things, facile media tropes that reinforce beliefs that political views are directly opposed to each other and a lack of training how to participate in safe, respectful political discussions.

We, teachers, are charged with the responsibility to teach students skills to engage in responsible political discourse. In doing so, students understand that compromise requires each side to give up something in order to gain something. This requires listening skills and respect for the other side’s perspective on the same topic.

Of course, I am not advocating for indoctrination. However, students also have to understand that bias exists and it is not a bad thing. Rather, it just exists. And their teachers hold biases, too!

Our students’ natural curiosity about who their teachers are makes them look for our bias especially when we are secretive or private about our political beliefs. Once they believe they have discovered our political leanings they do not know what to do with that information. They may even begin to judge us for them and make typical assumptions.  It is up to us to teach our students to not only recognize bias, but know how to evaluate its impact on political conversations in and out of the classroom.

Teachers who are open with their students about their political party affiliation quickly diffuse potential judgment. Additionally, if we are going to be honest and open with our students about our own political beliefs, we must also go out of our way to actively listen to students whose beliefs are different from our own and praise them for sharing. Everyone must feel validated for holding their political beliefs, and if their political beliefs shift in one directions or the other, then honor that change.

If teachers are expected models of society, we must reflect the civil side of it. Go ahead.  unburden yourself of your secret. You will find it will have a positive, lasting impact on you and your students.